Cuba launches next phase of African malaria project

[HAVANA] Cuba has announced plans to build biolarvicide factories in Brazil and several African countries in a bid to tackle malaria and dengue fever.

Biolarvicides are biological products that are added to water to kill mosquitoes at the larval stage. Labiofam — the Cuban laboratory in charge of the project — has been producing two biolarvicides, Bactivec and Griselesf, since the 1990s. The products currently have to be imported into Africa, but the new factories mean that the biolarvicides can now be produced on the continent.

José Antonio Fraga Castro — director-general of Labiofam — told SciDev.Net that Cuba has been working to tackle malaria in Africa for the past 20 years. Cuban scientists have conducted entomological work, tested biolarvicides and have trained locals in their use.

“Angola, for instance, has reduced malaria incidence by 50 per cent, and some areas have seen a 70 per cent fall,” said Fraga Castro. He added that, in a district of Accra, the Ghanaian capital, incidence of the disease has decreased by 75 per cent. These figures come from national health reports and can be attributed to both biolarvicide use and local environmental clean-up activities.

The new centres will carry on this work and produce both Bactivec and Griselesf. The former is a quick-acting biolarvicide that kills larvae of all mosquito species, whereas the latter kills mosquito larvae more slowly and has no effect on the dengue vector.

The Cuban government will oversee the programme, and funding is expected to come from national governments of the countries involved. Final figures have not yet been confirmed.

Fraga Castro said that countries will be able to sell their products to their neighbours and that Cuba will also purchase the biolarvicides.

He claimed that biological control is the most effective way to fight malaria as it prevents the birth of new mosquitoes and does not pollute the environment or pose health risks.

The 15 African delegations present at the First Labiofam International Congress, which took place from 28 September to 1 October, in Havana, proposed for the first time to include biological control as a means of tackling malaria.

Ghanaian health minister Benjamin Kumbour welcomed the project and said it would teach Ghana the best practices that Cuba has used to manage the disease and would deepen bilateral relations between the two countries.

He added that many traditional methods had been tried and proven unsuccessful.

Source – SciDev.Net – Leslie Salgado – 15 November 2010