Mosquito-devouring fish to control malaria

By Our Reporter

 SHILLONG: To control the spread of malaria the State Government proposes to introduce larvivorous fishes popularly known as ‘mosquito fishes’ in a big way. Meghalaya continues to have high incidence of malaria especially in Garo Hills and parts of Khasi Jaintia Hills.

“We will conduct a detailed study on the efficacy of larvivorous fishes to control the spread of malaria since these fish feed on mosquito larvae. If this option proves effective in controlling the spread of malaria then it would provide the Government with an alternative to control the disease,” Health and Family Welfare department, secretary KW Marbaniang stated during the one-day State Advocacy Workshop to observe to Anti-Malaria month here on Tuesday.

While stressing that on the need for convergence among various departments to control the spread of malaria, Marbaniang said that the Fisheries department would be the best department to help in conducting a detailed study on the effectiveness of larvivorous fish in controlling this vector borne disease.

“The Fisheries department can also help in providing fingerlings of the mosquito-devouring fish. There should be no problem for the department to assist in this effort since they have the State Aquaculture Mission which was launched recently,” Marbaniang said.

In fact, this usage of fish in mosquito control is not a new concept since it is an indigenous practise dating back several centuries.

In India, as far back in 1904 larvivorous fish were used in Mumbai City for the control of malaria vector.

Larvivorous fish, Poecilia reticulata (Guppy), a native of South America and Gambusia affinis (Gambusia), a native of Texas were imported to India in 1908 and 1928, respectively for the control of malaria vectors.

Soon after that use of larvivorous fish became a common practice in India especially in metro cities including Bengalaru and Kolkata. During the mid-1980s the National Institute of Malaria Research demonstrated the use of larvivorous fish as part of an integrated vector control strategy.

Though use of larvivorous fish is an important component for controlling malaria in the urban malaria schemes in India it is not a common thing in the rural areas.

Meanwhile, Marbaniang also emphasized the need to carry out GIS mapping to identify the areas which are highly prone to malaria.

“Many states in the country have carried out GIS mapping to identify the malaria prone areas,” Marbaniang said. Earlier, the Deputy Chief Minister in charge of Health and Family Welfare Rowell Lyngdoh had also endorsed the idea of introduce mosquito-devouring fish to check the spread of malaria.

“I have heard that these fishes are very effective to eliminate insects like anopheles mosquitoes which cause malaria,” Lyngdoh said.

The Deputy Chief Minister also called upon the department to find out if there are chemicals in the market which are more effective than the pesticides which are presently being used to control malaria.

Meanwhile, the Meghalaya State Vector Borne Disease Control Society (MSVBDCS) State Programme Officer Dr RO Budnah informed that the number of deaths from malaria has come down by 50 percent in this current year when compared to last year.

“This year we had only five deaths compared to ten deaths that occurred last year,” Dr Budnah said, while adding that the figure for this year is up to April 31. He also said that the the number of patients been affected by Plasmodium Falciparum (PF) bacteria has also reduced by 23.5 percent in the State when compared to last year. Stating that there were 5017 cases of people affected by PF, in 2011, he said that this year there are only 3040 cases. The State Advocacy Workshop is being organized by the MSVBDCS.

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