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Five years following first detection of Anopheles stephensi (Diptera: Culicidae) in Djibouti, Horn of Africa: populations established—malaria emerging


The Asian malaria mosquito, Anopheles stephensi, is a well-known and important vector of Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax. Until 2013, its geographical distribution was confined to central and southern Asia including the Arabian Peninsula. In the Horn of Africa (HoA) Region, An. stephensi was first recorded from Djibouti in 2012, when it was linked geographically and temporally with an unusual outbreak of urban P. falciparum malaria. In 2016, An. stephensi was detected in the neighbouring Somali Region of Ethiopia. In order to determine whether An. stephensi populations have become established in Djibouti and contributed to the unusual rise in local malaria cases there, we carried out continuous vector surveillance from January 2013 to December 2017, investigated seasonal changes in An. stephensi population densities and bionomics, analysed available literature describing malaria in Djibouti since 2013, and investigated whether An. stephensi may have contributed to local malaria transmission by detecting circumsporozoite antigen of P. falciparum and P. vivax in female anophelines. From 2013 to 2016, seasonal activity of An. stephensi in urban Djibouti City primarily occurred during the colder, wetter season between September and May, with either no or rare trap catches from June to August. Unlike past years, this species was detected year-round, including the extremely hot summer months of June to August 2017. This change in seasonal occurrence may indicate that An. stephensi populations are adapting to their new environment in sub-Saharan Africa, facilitating their spread within Djibouti City. Among the 96 female An. stephensi investigated for malaria infectivity, three (3.1%) were positive for P. falciparum circumsporozoite antigen, including one P. falciparum/P. vivax VK 210 double infection. Subsequent to the unusual resurgence of local malaria in 2013, with 1684 confirmed cased reported for that year, malaria case numbers increased continuously, peaking at 14,810 in 2017. Prior to 2016, only P. falciparum malaria cases had been reported, but in 2016, autochthonously acquired P. vivax malaria cases occurred for the first time at a rate of 16.7% among all malaria cases recorded that year. This number increased to 36.7% in 2017. Our data indicate that the dynamics of malaria species in Djibouti is currently changing rapidly, and that An. stephensi can be involved in the transmission of both P. falciparum and P. vivax, simultaneously. Considering the extremely high potential impact of urban malaria on public health, the timely deployment of optimal multinational vector surveillance and control programs against An. stephensi is strongly recommended, not only for the HoA Region, but for the entire African continent.

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The authors thank Ms. Anke Crecelius and Ms. Munar-Herrmann for laboratory support. Thanks are also given to the military personnel involved who assisted in data collection. Dr. Richard G. Robbins, Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit, Department of Entomology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, helpfully reviewed and commented on an the earlier version of our manuscript. This publication represents the thesis of Mr. Marco Seyfarth.

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Correspondence to Michael K. Faulde.

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Seyfarth, M., Khaireh, B.A., Abdi, A.A. et al. Five years following first detection of Anopheles stephensi (Diptera: Culicidae) in Djibouti, Horn of Africa: populations established—malaria emerging. Parasitol Res 118, 725–732 (2019).

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  • Anopheles stephensi
  • Invasive species
  • Malaria
  • Outbreak
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Plasmodium vivax