Dr. Rebeca Carballar-Lejarazú, University of California Irvine Malaria Initiative (UCIMI) and University of California Irvine
Every year on August 20, we commemorate World Mosquito Day. Mosquitoes, these tiny blood-sucking insects, are the chief culprit in causing serious diseases such as malaria. Malaria is an ancient disease that has plagued people since the emergence of modern agriculture and civilization, and still poses a fatal threat to people all over the world. Some of the earliest written records of human diseases from Mesopotamia, India and China describe fever cycles that are recognizably malaria, and parasite DNA was recovered from human remains dating to the 5th century AD during the waning Roman Empire in Europe.
Malaria has affected all continents except Antarctica and is still a common problem in parts of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were 229 million malaria cases worldwide in 2019, with just under a half-million deaths, most of which were young children in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The WHO has reported concerns about drug-resistant malaria parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes, which may hinder the efforts to contain the spread of the disease.
World Mosquito Day marks the date when Sir Ronald Ross, a British Army surgeon, demonstrated that female Anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting malaria parasites. Ross was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1902. Ross subsequently proclaimed the first World Mosquito Day and stated that the world must be aware of the association between mosquitoes and malaria.
But wait…other mosquito species are able to transmit other diseases such as Dengue, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, West Nile, Chikungunya, Zika, Lymphatic Filariasis, and the list goes on! For this reason, mosquitoes are perhaps the only predators in word history that have succeed through centuries, causing death and devastation through a variety of mosquito-borne diseases. Mosquitoes occupy the top position of the world’s deadliest animals to humans killing over 700,000 people each year!
Global efforts leading to more innovative preventive measures and treatments, and the development of new emerging technologies to control mosquito-borne diseases are required to successfully eradicate them.
Happy World Mosquito Day!