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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Malaria mosquito control using edible fish in western Kenya: preliminary findings of a controlled study

Annabel FV Howard1, Guofa Zhou2 and Francois X Omlin1*

Author Affiliations

1 Human Health Department, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), PO Box 30772-00100, Nairobi, Kenya

2 Program in Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:199  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-199

Published: 9 August 2007

Abstract

Background

Biological control methods are once again being given much research focus for malaria vector control. This is largely due to the emerging threat of strong resistance to pesticides. Larvivorous fish have been used for over 100 years in mosquito control and many species have proved effective. In the western Kenyan highlands the larvivorous fish Oreochromis niloticus L. (Perciformes: Cichlidae) (formerly Tilapia nilotica) is commonly farmed and eaten but has not been previously tested in the field for malaria mosquito control.

Methods

This fish was introduced into abandoned fishponds at an altitude of 1,880 m and the effect measured over six months on the numbers of mosquito immatures. For comparison an untreated control pond was used. During this time, all ponds were regularly cleared of emergent vegetation and fish re-stocking was not needed. Significant autocorrelation was removed from the time series data, and t-tests were used to investigate within a pond and within a mosquito type any differences before and after the introduction of O. niloticus. Mulla's formula was also used on the raw data to calculate the percentage reduction of the mosquito larvae.

Results

After O. niloticus introduction, mosquito densities immediately dropped in the treated ponds but increased in the control pond. This increase was apparently due to climatic factors. Mulla's formula was applied which corrects for that natural tendency to increase. The results showed that after 15 weeks the fish caused a more than 94% reduction in both Anopheles gambiae s.l. and Anopheles funestus (Diptera: Culicidae) in the treated ponds, and more than 75% reduction in culicine mosquitoes. There was a highly significantly reduction in A. gambiae s.l. numbers when compared to pre-treatment levels.

Conclusion

This study reports the first field trial data on O. niloticus for malaria mosquito control and shows that this species, already a popular food fish in western Kenya, is an apparently sustainable mosquito control tool which also offers a source of protein and income to people in rural areas. There should be no problem with acceptance of this malaria control method since the local communities already farm this fish species.