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Pakistan to Provide Training to African Nations on Mosquito Identification Techniques

Islamabad announces that Pakistan’s Malaria Control Program, known for its abundant data and knowledge, will educate representatives from nine African nations on managing a South Asian mosquito species. This mosquito has the potential to cause a significant rise in Malaria cases across the continent.

The Ministry of National Health Services’ Malaria Control Directorate (DoMC) has been chosen to participate in an exchange program, which involves hosting a comprehensive training and capacity development initiative. This program aims to enhance Anopheles stephensi surveillance and control efforts across nine African countries.

He mentioned that historically, South Asia and certain regions in the Middle East have been home to Anopheles stephensi, an efficient malaria-transmitting mosquito. This species has gained notoriety due to its expansion to various African nations, such as Djibouti, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan, since 2013.

He stated that the primary concern arising from this range expansion is the mosquito’s ability to thrive in urban areas, signifying a significant change in malaria patterns. In Africa, where it was previously predominantly a rural disease, it could now potentially infect millions of city residents.

In light of extensive monitoring and management of this mosquito over several decades, India and Pakistan were encouraged to collaborate with African malaria control experts by sharing their experiences. This mutual exchange offers significant advantages for Africa’s control programs, enabling rapid enhancement of preparedness and response initiatives.

The Department of Management official stated that Pakistan possesses sophisticated control methods, extensive research capabilities, and advanced research infrastructures. To gain insights from Pakistan’s extensive experience and foster collaborations, a group of influential and decision-making individuals from affected African countries will visit Pakistan. Their purpose is to learn and work together on research, surveillance, and control initiatives for the mutual benefit of both regions.

He emphasized that this visit would mark the beginning of a pilot event, establishing a foundation for future collaborations. The purpose is to showcase success, set an example, and initiate partnerships. By demonstrating effective outcomes, it can encourage funding partners to support future multinational initiatives aimed at combating the Anopheles stephensi threat.

Nevertheless, the Directorate of Malaria Control (DoMC) and the Department of Entomology at Arid University (located at the National Entomological Reference Laboratory) were also planning to conduct an intensive, one-week international training program on Molecular Mosquito Identification through PCR in May 2024. The official stated that they had received highly impressive resumes from young and enthusiastic entomologists within the country.

“We are currently in the last phase of selecting the four most fitting candidates from the participants, as they exhibit a highly competitive atmosphere. To further diversify our options, we are also attempting to include 2-3 additional candidates from Pakistan by utilizing local financial resources.”

It was emphasized that aspiring candidates should understand that the program involves PCR and DNA extraction of various mosquito species, preserving them as representative samples from Pakistan. Consequently, the Directorate requires a strong commitment from the candidates for collecting and sending mosquito samples from their designated areas.

The candidates have been encouraged to begin their task of collecting and sending mosquitoes from their respective regions (regardless of identification). They will receive training in identification (both morphologically and through PCR) during the process. This commitment requires dedicated and enthusiastic candidates who are currently involved in vector control and surveillance within their departments.

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