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Modeling the role of environmental variables on the population dynamics of the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto

Paul E Parham1*, Diane Pople2, Céline Christiansen-Jucht2, Steve Lindsay3, Wes Hinsley2 and Edwin Michael4

Author Affiliations

1 Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College, London, W2 1PG, UK

2 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College, London, W2 1PG, UK

3 Disease Control and Vector Biology Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, WC1E 7HT, UK

4 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556-0369, USA

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Malaria Journal 2012, 11:271  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-271

Published: 9 August 2012

Abstract

Background

The impact of weather and climate on malaria transmission has attracted considerable attention in recent years, yet uncertainties around future disease trends under climate change remain. Mathematical models provide powerful tools for addressing such questions and understanding the implications for interventions and eradication strategies, but these require realistic modeling of the vector population dynamics and its response to environmental variables.

Methods

Published and unpublished field and experimental data are used to develop new formulations for modeling the relationships between key aspects of vector ecology and environmental variables. These relationships are integrated within a validated deterministic model of Anopheles gambiae s.s. population dynamics to provide a valuable tool for understanding vector response to biotic and abiotic variables.

Results

A novel, parsimonious framework for assessing the effects of rainfall, cloudiness, wind speed, desiccation, temperature, relative humidity and density-dependence on vector abundance is developed, allowing ease of construction, analysis, and integration into malaria transmission models. Model validation shows good agreement with longitudinal vector abundance data from Tanzania, suggesting that recent malaria reductions in certain areas of Africa could be due to changing environmental conditions affecting vector populations.

Conclusions

Mathematical models provide a powerful, explanatory means of understanding the role of environmental variables on mosquito populations and hence for predicting future malaria transmission under global change. The framework developed provides a valuable advance in this respect, but also highlights key research gaps that need to be resolved if we are to better understand future malaria risk in vulnerable communities.

Keywords:
Malaria; Anopheles gambiae s.s.; Temperature; Rainfall; Density-dependence; Mathematical modeling; Climate change