Evaluation of long-lasting microbial larvicide for malaria vector control in Kenya
© The Author(s) 2016
Received: 24 August 2016
Accepted: 18 November 2016
Published: 1 December 2016
Outdoor malaria transmission is becoming an increasingly important problem in malaria control in Africa. Larval control is a promising intervention as it can target both indoor and outdoor biting mosquitoes. However, the currently available biolarvicide formulations have a short effective duration, and consequently larval control incurs a high operational expense due to the requirement for frequent re-treatment of larval habitats. Formulations of biolarvicides with long-lasting effects is highly desired. A recently developed FourStar® slow-release briquet formulation of Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis and Bacillus sphaericus was evaluated to test its efficacy on malaria vectors.
The study evaluated FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation under semi-natural and natural conditions to test their efficacy in reducing the mosquito population in western Kenya. The semi-natural habitats used the formulation dissolved in rainwater with appropriate concentrations, and second-instar larvae of Anopheles gambiae were introduced and the number of surviving larvae and pupae produced was recorded daily as the outcome. The briquets formulation was then tested in natural habitats for efficacy on pupal productivity reduction in highland and lowland sites in western Kenya. The formulation was finally tested for efficacy in reducing adult mosquito populations in randomized clusters in western Kenya highland.
In semi-natural conditions, the FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation completely inhibited mosquito pupal production in the first 3 months, and then reduced pupal productivity by 87–98% (P < 0.001) 4–6 months after application. In natural habitats, during the first 2 months no pupae were detected from any of the treated habitats in highland sites, and Anopheles spp. pupal density was reduced by 60–90% in the next 3–5 months (P < 0.001). In the lowland site, pupal productivity reduction was 100% in the first 3 months, and 75–90% in the next 4–5 months (P < 0.001). The randomized cluster trial found that the application of the briquets formulation reduced mean densities of indoor-biting mosquitoes by 76–82% (P < 0.001) and by 67–75% (P < 0.001) for outdoor-biting mosquitoes.
This study demonstrated that long-lasting biological larviciding was effective in reducing pupal productivity of larval habitats, and reducing indoor and outdoor resting mosquitoes. The study suggests that long-lasting microbial larviciding may be a promising complementary malaria vector control tool and warrants further large-scale evaluation.
Malaria continues to be a leading cause of death and morbidity in sub-Saharan Africa despite the massive scale-up of long-lasting impregnated nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) interventions within the last decade . Despite overall success in reducing malaria prevalence and incidence, there is evidence of limited impact and a resurgence of clinical malaria in parts of sub-Saharan Africa [2, 3]. There is increasing evidence for shifts in vector biting behaviour from night biting to early biting, and from indoor biting to outdoor biting, and for vector species composition change from previously predominantly indoor-biting Anopheles gambiae to predominantly Anopheles arabiensis or other not-yet-identified vector species that prefer to bite and rest outdoors [3–5]. However, the front-line malaria vector control tools only target indoor-resting and indoor-biting vectors and do not kill the mosquitoes that bite and rest outdoors, leading to a surge in residual malaria transmission [6, 7]. Residual transmission of malaria is becoming an important public health problem in Africa . Additionally, LLIN and IRS control tools are insecticide-based, and resistance to insecticides continues to spread across Africa [8, 9]. There is a pressing need to include interventions that could tackle residual malaria transmission in the present malaria control paradigm and to develop viable insecticide resistance management strategies to help malaria control and elimination efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.
Larval source management (LSM), including habitat modification, manipulation and larviciding, has historically been the main focus of mosquito control programmes in many parts of the world, which helped to control and eliminate malaria in countries such as the USA, Canada, in some European countries, and Brazil [10–12]. However, Africa has seen little LSM application due to the perception of high operational cost and complexity . LSM has been shown in several studies in Africa to be effective in reducing the abundance of malaria mosquito larvae, adults and transmission [14, 15]. LSM offers the dual benefits of reducing numbers of outdoor- and indoor-biting mosquitoes  and, therefore, may be valuable in tackling prevalent residual malaria transmission that is a major challenge in malaria control in Africa. The Cochrane review by Tusting et al.  concluded that “in Africa and Asia, LSM is another policy option, alongside LLINs and IRS, for reducing malaria morbidity in both urban and rural areas where a sufficient proportion of larval habitats can be targeted”. One important question to be addressed is whether LSM is feasible and cost effective in parts of rural Africa where larval habitats are more extensive and malaria transmission intensity is high.
The currently available biolarvicide formulations have a short, effective duration (7–10 days), and they have been shown to be effective in reducing malaria vector abundance and transmission [17–20]. However, larval control may incur a high operation expense if frequent re-treatment of larval habitats is required. Formulations of biological larvicides that have long-lasting effects would reduce application costs because habitats would require less frequent re-treatment. Recently, slow-release formulations of microbial larvicides have been developed and approved by United States Environmental Protection Agency for field mosquito control. The present study evaluated the effectiveness of a slow-release microbial larvicide based on Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis and Bacillus sphaericus in reducing habitat productivity and adult malaria vector abundance in Kenya. The potential advantages of using Bacillus sphaericus and Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis in one larvicide formulation include reduced rate of resistance development to bacterial toxins, mosquito-specific killing and no known negative impact on non-target organisms .
Long-lasting microbial larvicide tested
The present study examined a United States Environmental Protection Agency approved, slow-release FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation manufactured by Adapco Inc . The 30 g formulation consists of 6% by weight of Bacillus sphaericus (Bs) Serotype H5a5b strain 2362, 1% by weight of Bacillus thuringiensis sub-species israelensis, (Bti) strain BMP 144 and other ingredients that make the formulation to release slowly the bacterial toxins.
Effect of FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation under semi-natural conditions
To test the efficacy and effective duration of the slow-release microbial larvicide formulation in killing malaria mosquitoes under semi-natural conditions, the 30-g FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation was placed in 560 L of rainwater in a 1000-L container. This amount of water was calculated based on the recommended dose of one FourStar™ briquet in a 9.3-sq metres of surface area. The briquet was dissolved, stored in the container and covered with insect-proof net, as the stock solution. Three stock solutions were prepared. Microcosms were prepared in a plastic basin (30 cm diameter and 20 cm deep) using 2 kg soil from the rural community in Kisian village, western Kenya and 2 L of stock solution. Control microcosms used 2 kg soil and rainwater without any larvicide.
Sixty-second-instar field collected An. gambiae larvae were introduced to each microcosm basin each month for a period of 6 months. At each time point, ten microcosms were used, including five basins with microbial larvicide and five control basins without any larvicide. Water in basins was replenished from the stock solution or rainwater to compensate for water loss due to evaporation. The number of surviving larvae and pupae were monitored and recorded daily. Pupae productivity was used as a proxy measure for adult mosquito emergence, and it was used as the key measurement of the effectiveness of microbial larvicide here .
Testing FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation under field conditions
Effect of FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation on indoor-resting malaria vector abundance
Effect of FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation on indoor- and outdoor-resting malaria vector abundance in a randomized trial
In the experiments to test the efficacy and duration of efficacy of the briquets in mosquito control under semi-natural environment, t test was done to determine the statistical differences in the mean number of pupae emerging from the treated and untreated microcosms. For experiments to determine the efficacy of the briquets in pupal productivity control in natural habitats, analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures was done to determine the statistical differences between the intervention and control habitats. For the studies to determine the effect of the briquet on mosquito densities inside and outside houses, densities of mosquito per house per night was calculated in the intervention and control sites, and ANOVA with repeated measures was used to determine the statistical significance. Numbers of An. gambiae s.l. and An. funestus mosquitoes were pooled due to very low An. funestus abundance.
FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation under semi-natural conditions
Effects of FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation on pupal productivity in field conditions
In the highland site, pupal productivity between intervention and control habitats was similar during the 5-month pre-intervention period (4.20 vs 4.24 pupae per dip, F1,8 = 0.01, P > 0.05; Fig. 5a). In the first 2 months after the larviciding application, no pupae were detected from any of the treated habitats in the highland areas whereas the average productivity of control habitats was 4.8 pupae per dip (Fig. 5a). From months 3 to 5, the average pupae density in the intervention habitats was 0.73 whilst that in the control habitats was 3.9, leading to a relative reduction of 87.4% in pupal productivity (F1,8 = 110.79, P < 0.0001).
Similar to findings in the highland sites, the pupae productivity in the habitats in the lowland site in the intervention and control arm were similar (4.60 vs 4.36 pupae per dip, F1,8 = 1.07, P > 0.05). Pupal productivity was 0 during the first three months after microbial larvicide application, and 4.6 in the control habitats. In months 4 and 5, pupal productivity was 0.55 in the intervention habitats whereas 4.2 pupae were found in the control habitats, a reduction of 95.4% (F1,8 = 276.5, P < 0.0001; Fig. 5b).
Effect of FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation on indoor-resting malaria vectors
Effect of FourStar™ briquets 180-days formulation on indoor- and outdoor-resting malaria vector abundance in a randomized trial
In the present study, a new slow-release microbial larvicide formulation based on Bacillus sphaericus and Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis was tested against malaria vectors in semi-natural microcosms and natural conditions for both pupal productivity and adult vector densities in rural communities in western Kenya. There was a 100% reduction in pupation rate in the first 3 months, and decay of larviciding efficacy to 85.5% reduction of pupation rate 5 months after larviciding application in semi-natural microcosms. In natural habitats, efficacy of the briquets in suppressing pupal productivity of malaria vectors was demonstrated in malaria epidemic highlands and endemic lowlands. The slow-release microbial larvicide was effective in inhibiting pupal productivity by 100% in the first 2–3 months, and by 87.4–95.4% within 3–5 months of larviciding application. Cluster randomized studies demonstrated a reduction of 76–82% in indoor vector abundance and 67–75% in outdoor vector abundance within the 14 weeks monitored. These results showed that slow-release microbial larvicide formulation presents a promising malaria vector control tool.
When the slow-release formulation was applied in the field, bacterial toxins took several days to build up the concentration to a level lethal to mosquito larvae or to inhibit larval metamorphosis to pupae. Although the larviciding effect was not instant, the formulation we tested had a longer effect in comparison to other commercial microbial larvicides previously examined for malaria vector control, e.g. [16, 25, 26]. In the study sites in western Kenya the effective duration of the briquets lasted 2–3 months, before larviciding efficacy started to decay. The highland sites exhibited faster decay rate than the lowland sites (Fig. 5), most likely due to more intense rainfall in the highlands than the lowland sites. Rainfall could have diluted the briquets that were placed in the larval habitats and therefore caused a decay in larviciding effect. Additionally, some briquets sunk into the mud beneath the habitat bottom and were not available to effectively release any bacterial toxins. These factors may explain the decay of larviciding efficacy after 3 months of use in the field.
In the randomized cluster experiments, it was shown that application of slow-release briquet formulations caused reduction of indoor and outdoor adult malaria vector abundance by 60–85% for a period of 3 months. The formulation we evaluated was labeled as “180-days formulation”, but our evaluation was conducted for only 3 months, and whether the briquettes remain effective for a longer period of time needs future field testing. Longer effective duration would reduce the frequency of habitat re-treatment and thus help to reduce operational costs . It is unknown whether reduction in the density of adult vectors will translate into reduction in the incidence of clinical malaria or malaria infections. Because outdoor malaria transmission represents one of the most important challenges in malaria control in Africa , slow-release briquet formulations warrant further evaluation of the impact on clinical malaria in multiple countries. Important questions should be addressed prior to large-scale testing, such as, is the dry season the optimal timing for larviciding application; what is the efficient strategy to identify stable habitats for larviciding; how frequently should larvicides be applied; should larvicide dosage be adjusted for larval habitats with different vegetation coverage and water depth; would resistance to bacterial toxins evolve rapidly in mosquito populations due to imperfect killing of larvae by larvicides; what proportion of larval habitats must be treated to achieve targeted level of reduction in malarial incidence; and under what ecological setting is long-lasting larviciding cost-effective? Mathematical modelling, in combination with field ecological experimentation can help address these questions.
In summary, there is a growing recognition that integrated malaria vector management is needed to control and eliminate malaria [27–30]. Larval source management could be employed to complement the use of LLINs and IRS to target residual transmission [28–30]. Microbial larvicides with long residual activity such as the Bacillus sphaericus and Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis briquet formulation tested in the present study would be a valuable addition to the toolbox for integrated malaria vector management.
YAA participated in the study design and was responsible for data collection, management and analysis, as well as the drafting and producing the final manuscript; NGM, CLW and TMG helped in the data collection and management and producing the final manuscript. GZ and MCL participated in GIS work, all data management work and analysis and helped in drafting the final manuscript; AKG and GY designed the study, supervised data collection, and helped in drafting and producing the final manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors wish to thank all field assistants who helped in data collection for the study. This paper is published with the permission of the Director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Availability of data and materials
Data for the manuscript are available in the Kenya Medical Research data repository to anyone who might need it.
This research is supported by Grants from the National Institutes of Health (R01 AI094580, R01 AI050243 and D43 TW001505).
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
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