Background: Most malaria vector control programmes rely on indoor residual spraying of insecticides and insecticide-treated bed nets. This is effective against vector species that feed indoors at night and rest inside the house afterwards. In Central America, malaria vectors have different behaviours and are typically exophagic (i.e., bite outdoors), exophilic (i.e., remain outdoors after feeding), and zoophagic (i.e., as likely to feed on non-humans as humans). Thus, malaria elimination in Central America may require additional tactics. This pilot study investigated whether commercially-available products used to treat livestock for ticks could also be used to kill and/or sterilize zoophagic malaria vectors that feed on treated cattle in Belize.
Methods: Cattle were treated with either a pour-on formulation of 1% fipronil (3 heifers) or injection of 1% ivemectin (1 heifer). Control heifers (n = 2) were left untreated. Field-collected Anopheles albimanus contained in screen-top cages were strapped onto cattle at 2, 5, 7, and 14 days after treatment. Mosquito mortality was monitored once a day for 4 successive days. Surviving mosquitoes were dissected to assess blood meal digestion and ovarian development.
Results: A total of 1078 female An. albimanus mosquitoes were fed and monitored for mortality. Both fipronil and ivermectin significantly reduced survivorship of An. albimanus for up to 7 days after treatment. By 14 days, efficacy had declined. The ivermectin treatment completely lost its effectiveness and even though the fipronil-treated heifers were still killing significantly more mosquitoes than the untreated heifers, the amount of mosquito killing had diminished greatly. Both treatments significantly reduced ovary development in mosquitoes fed on treated cattle for the duration of the 2-week trial.
Conclusions: Treatment of cattle in northern Belize with topical fipronil and injectable ivermectin had significant lethal and sublethal effects on wild An. albimanus females. These results suggest that efforts towards eliminating residual transmission of malaria by zoophagic vectors in Central America may benefit by the judicious, targeted treatment of livestock with mosquitocidal compounds, such as fipronil or ivermectin.
Keywords: Anopheles albimanus; Belize; Cattle; Fipronil; Ivermectin; Malaria.