• Opiyo said stephenses mosquitoes have been forced to flee the Arabian world into Ethiopia and now Kenya because of global warming.
• Opiyo said they are currently doing surveillance across the country to monitor the potential presence of the stephenses mosquito in other counties apart from Mandera.
Researchers at the Kenya Medical Research Institute have warned of the discovery of a new, more dangerous species of mosquito in the country.
The stephenses mosquito, usually found in the Arabian world where it is usually very warm, was recently discovered in Mandera county.
“About two months ago, we confirmed the discovery of a mosquito called stephenses which is a very dangerous mosquito, very efficient in transmission of diseases and can come into any habitat,” Kemri senior lab technologist Michael Opiyo said on Wednesday.
He said the stephenses mosquito carries and transmits more different types of viruses than the other mosquito species including the mars virus, and other respiratory viruses that can cause diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, among others.
Opiyo, who was speaking at the Mombasa International ASK Show, told the Star stephenses mosquitoes have been forced to flee the Arabian world into Ethiopia and now Kenya because of global warming.
“Their usual habitats have become too warm for them and now they are trying to find new places where they are more comfortable,” he explained.
Opiyo, who is also the Kemri lab health and safety officer, said they are currently doing surveillance across the country to monitor the potential presence of the stephenses mosquito in other counties apart from Mandera.
“We are doing surveillance in every country. We send people to collect mosquitoes using certain equipment. They bring these mosquitoes to Kemri where we are able to identify which species before we give the government the necessary information,” Opiyo said.
The three common species of mosquitoes in Kenya - culex, anopheles and aedes – prefer certain habitats but the stephenses species survive in any place, especially in towns, according to Opiyo.
“So when it comes to towns where people usually don’t have mosquitoes, it can transmit many viruses which will affect us and therefore we need to take precautions as much as possible,” he said.
One of the precautions to take is to use sustainable means of controlling mosquitoes.
These include using the neem tree (Mkilifi in Swahili) leaves and aloe vera, which can be put in the mosquito breeding waters and this will kill the mosquito larvae.
The neem tree is usually found in the coastal region.
“Just pick enough neem tree leaves and the aloe vera, put them in the water where the mosquito breeds to almost cover the whole surface and wait. The mosquito larvae will die,” Opiyo said.
Kemri is also in the clinical trial stages of a drug called ivermectin to prevent mosquito bites.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug, discovered in 1975, and used in veterinary medicine to prevent and treat heartworm and acariasis.
It is also used to treat several neglected tropical diseases, including onchocerciasis, helminthiases and scabies.
In Kenya, the drug has been used to treat elephantiasis, transmitted by the culex mosquito, usually found in the coastal areas.
“The culex mosquito transmits the filarial worm to people living along the coastal region making their legs and other body parts to swell,” Opiyo said.
Kemri has thus been giving people, especially at the Coast, a dose every year, for every person, to prevent elephantiasis.
“But in the process, Kemri discovered that when mosquitoes bite a person who has been given ivermectin, that mosquito dies," Opiyo said.
“So we are using it as a means of also controlling mosquito breeding, but it is still in the bohemian trial.”
He said the drug will act on the filarial worms inside one’s body, but for mosquitoes it kills the adults, which means the adults cannot breed or lay eggs to continue their numbers.
The trial will go on for about one or two years before it is approved for mass use.
“We have just started the trials. We have received funds for the research and later we will be able to know which amount of the drug will kill the mosquitoes if given to humans as a drug,” Opiyo said.
Kemri usually receives funds from bodies like the World Health Organization and other organisations apart from the Kenyan government.