Preventing malaria transmission by indoor residual spraying in Malawi: grappling with the challenge of uncertain sustainability

Malar J. 2015 Jun 24:14:254. doi: 10.1186/s12936-015-0759-3.


Background: In the past decade, there has been rapid scale-up of insecticide-based malaria vector control in the context of integrated vector management (IVM) according to World Health Organization recommendations. Endemic countries have deployed indoor residual spraying (IRS) and long-lasting insecticidal nets as hallmark vector control interventions. This paper discusses the successes and continued challenges and the way forward for the IRS programme in Malawi.

Case description: The National Malaria Control Programme in Malawi, with its efforts to implement an integrated approach to malaria vector control, was the 'case' for this study. Information sources included all available data and accessible archived documentary records on IRS in Malawi. A methodical assessment of published and unpublished documents was conducted via a literature search of online electronic databases.

Discussion: Malawi has implemented IRS as the main malaria transmission-reducing intervention. However, pyrethroid and carbamate resistance in malaria vectors has been detected extensively across the country and has adversely affected the IRS programme. Additionally, IRS activities have been characterized by substantial inherent logistical and technical challenges culminating into missed targets. As a consequence, programmatic IRS operations have been scaled down from seven districts in 2010 to only one district in 2014. The future of the IRS programme in Malawi is uncertain due to limited funding, high cost of alternative insecticides and technical resource challenges being experienced in the country.

Conclusions: The availability of a long-lasting formulation of the organophosphate pirimiphos-methyl makes the re-introduction of IRS a possibility and may be a useful approach for the management of pyrethroid resistance. Implementing the IVM strategy, advocating for sustainable domestic funding, including developing an insecticide resistance monitoring and management plan and vector surveillance guidelines will be pivotal in steering entomologic monitoring and future vector control activities in Malawi.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors*
  • Insecticide Resistance
  • Insecticides*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / prevention & control*
  • Malawi
  • Mosquito Control*
  • Organothiophosphorus Compounds*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*


  • Insecticides
  • Organothiophosphorus Compounds
  • pirimiphos methyl