Mosquitoes: malaria species gathering in Britain's gardens

May 21, 2014

Increase in temperatures and water containers is attracting more mosquitoes to UK urban areas

Warmer temperatures and an increase in garden water containers are attracting more mosquitoes to urban areas in the UK, a new study has found.

Two species of mosquito, responsible for spreading malaria and West Nile virus overseas, are gathering in Britain's gardens.

UK mosquitoes are free from human diseases, but a study published in Plos One suggests the chances of a potential outbreak increase with more of the insects breeding in urban areas.

Dr Amanda Callaghan, an associate professor at the University of Reading's School of Biological Sciences and co-author of the study, says that changes in temperature have been known to cause changes in mosquito behaviour. She notes that in some regions, such as southern Europe, diseases have "crept in" because mosquitoes have changed their behaviour.

The UK's severe drought and hosepipe ban in 2012 prompted more people to buy water butt containers, which represents a "large area of habitat" for mosquitoes, says the report.

"The main finding is that these mosquitoes are right next to people's houses and the Anopheles mosquito we found is a human-biting species and it can transmit malaria," says Callaghan. "Therefore, if someone comes back from their holiday with malaria and they get bitten, it could be transmitted to another person – and that is how you get outbreaks."

Callaghan says the chances of a malaria epidemic are "relatively low" as there has not been secondary malaria here since the 1950s. Secondary malaria refers to someone catching malaria from another person who has also been bitten by a mosquito, explains the BBC.

There are thousands of cases of malaria in the UK each year, but mostly as a result of people returning from abroad. People are normally treated quickly, meaning that malaria is not in their blood for a long time and therefore the chances of being bitten and transmitting it are quite low.

But Callaghan says the chances increase if more people come back with malaria and there are more mosquitoes that can transmit malaria living in urban areas.

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“Mosquitoes: malaria species gathering in Britain's gardens” This is not the only concern. The deadly malaria bug, the Plasmodium falciparum carried only by the by female mosquitoes is staring to be carried by other forms of the genus Plasmodium such as the vivax presenting a new vector for infection transport.