In Rwanda, ‘Human bait’ volunteers help battle malaria


"Rwanda’s human bait volunteers are on the front line of malaria research."


Over the past 15 years, since the start of an ambitious national plan funded in part by the United States and international partners, Rwanda has reduced malaria deaths by 80 percent. Child and maternal health in particular have improved significantly because of a strong focus on preventing, diagnosing, and treating cases among pregnant women and children under five. This has been accomplished in part by strengthening the country’s entire health system, and also by treating malaria as quickly as possible, distributing insecticide-treated bed nets, and spraying insecticides on the walls of homes in the regions at highest risk of the illness.

As part of a strong entomological surveillance program, villagers in Mareba, Rwanda are paid about $3 a night to serve as bait for mosquitoes, which they trap and transfer to technicians at a nearby entomology lab that serves the whole district of Bugesera, one of the most malaria-prone regions in Rwanda. Many of the mosquitoes carry Plasmodium falciparum, a species of malaria parasite capable of killing within 24 hours of the first sign of symptoms if not treated.

The human bait volunteers are on the front line of malaria research in Rwanda, one of only four high-burden countries -  along with India, Ethiopia, and Pakistan -  that managed to see a significant decline in malaria in 2017. All four relied on similar strategies, according to the World Health Organization, preventing the spread of malaria with bed nets and pesticides; rapidly testing and treating malaria cases; and “significantly” strengthening malaria surveillance.


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Posted: April 28.2020




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