Understanding the malaria vector: our entomological work in Burkina Faso

Posted 24th November 2021 by Dr. Franck Yao

Malaria-transmitting mosquitoes are amongst the deadliest animals in the world, responsible for more than 400,000 deaths from the disease in 2019 alone. At Target Malaria Burkina Fasowhere I work as Field Entomology coordinator – we collect information on the sibling species of Anopheles gambiae, one of the main malaria vectors on the African continent. Our entomological work allows us to understand where these mosquitoes live and breed, how far they travel and where they bite people, and helps inform the project’s development of an innovative tool to reduce malaria transmission.

Mosquito swarming activities in Burkina Faso

Our research involves several activities which are based on collecting mosquitoes in their natural habitat in different local sites (Bana, Souroukoudinga and the surrounding villages). We use a number of collection methods, the main ones being indoor spray catches, swarm collections, collection using traps and larval collection. Collecting samples allows us to conduct analyses and gain information on the seasonal abundance, spatial distribution, and population dynamics of the mosquitoes.

Analysing collected mosquitoes following an MMR activity in Bana, Burkina Faso

One of the main activities we carry out in the field is the mark-release-recapture (MRR) of wild or genetically modified mosquitoes. The aim of this activity is to estimate the size of the mosquito population and assess the dispersal and survival rate of mosquitoes in the field. This activity also provides data which will enable our researchers to design, as well as implement, an effective vector control strategy.

As part of our step-wise approach to developing our technology, in July 2019 we carried out a release of non gene drive genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes in the village of Bana. The release was a first in Africa and required several years of work for all our teams (insectary, entomology and stakeholder engagement) to develop expertise, build capacity and ensure an informed dialogue could take place with the affected communities.

Mosquito larvae collection in Burkina Faso

In order to carry out field activities, we work in close collaboration with experienced collectors (temporary or voluntary workers) who have been previously trained in the various techniques that we use in the field. In accordance with our value of co-development, these collectors come from the local community and contribute to our research with their knowledge.

We also work with the stakeholder engagement team, who goes ahead of us in the field, working closely with local communities to ensure they have given their agreement for the planned entomological activities to take place and that they understand the research we will carry out. This commitment is important and allows us to strengthen dialogue and cohesion with our stakeholders around the common goal of fighting malaria.

The field entomology team is pleased to be able to contribute to the ongoing battle against malaria through its work. We believe that the research and development of new tools and innovative approaches to control malaria will be of crucial importance to reverse stagnant progress and consolidate hard-won gains in the continuing fight against this deadly disease.