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23 Apr 2013: Conservation of Forests
Can Prevent Malaria Spread, Study Says

The conservation of woodlands and biodiversity can actually help prevent the spread of malaria in tropical forests, a new study says. Using a mathematical model of different conditions in a forest region of southeastern Brazil, scientists found that the circulation of the parasite Plasmodium vivax — which is associated with 80 million to 300 million malaria cases worldwide — is likely to decrease in less developed forests where populations of non-malarial mosquitoes and warm-blooded animals are abundant. While no malaria cases have been reported in 30 years within the biodiverse study area, located in the Atlantic Forest, researchers say a primary malaria mosquito is found nearby. According to their study, published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the findings suggest that malarial and non-malarial mosquito populations are likely to compete for blood feeding, and that the animals act as “dead-end reservoirs” of the malaria parasite. “These aspects of biodiversity that can hinder malaria transmission are services provided by the forest ecosystem,” Gabriel Zorello, an epidemiologist at the University of Sao Paulo and lead researcher of the study, told ScieDev.Net. One critic challenged the findings, saying that biodiversity, at best, might help reduce malaria transmission at the edges of the disease’s range.


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