CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Dr. Folashade Agusto, an Austin Peay State University assistant professor of mathematics, has taken the world one step closer to eradicating malaria – the leading cause of death among children in Africa.
That’s because Agusto is the lead author of a new study from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), which used a mathematical model to discover that insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNS) can drastically cut back the number of malaria infections. The study found that the nets positively affected malaria’s reproduction number, or R, which is the primary epidemiological number used to determine the degree that a disease can spread through a population. The model concludes that if 75 percent of the population were to use ITNS, malaria could be eliminated.
The treated mosquito net forms a protective barrier around people sleeping under them. The insecticide not only kills the mosquitoes, which carry the malaria parasite and other insects, it also repels mosquitoes, reducing the number that enter the house and attempt to feed on people inside. With ITNS, the number of mosquitoes, as well as their length of life, is reduced, which is why the density of nets in a community is important.
Overcoming cultural resistance to using bed nets in communities where people view the nets as intrusive has been a major challenge of international malaria prevention agencies. There is evidence also that in some countries more bed nets go to the rich than the poor. Health groups are devising strategies to encourage use of the bed nets and to make sure they are distributed more equitably.
“Based on the results, it’s clear that educational campaigns around the use of bed-nets must continue as the nets play a critical role in reducing the transmission of malaria,” Agusto said. A former NIMBioS postdoctoral fellow, she also co-organized the NIMBioS Investigative Workshop on Malaria Modeling and Control. The workshop’s participants co-authored the study with Agusto.
Malaria has already been eradicated in Europe, North America, the Caribbean and parts of Asia and South-Central America, but the World Health Organization estimates that 250 million people become infected with malaria every year. Nearly 1 million die a year from the infection.
For more information on this study, contact Agusto at firstname.lastname@example.org.