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Anopheles stephensi is a malaria-transmitting mosquito that has recently expanded from its primary range in Asia and the Middle East, to locations in Africa. This species is a competent vector of both P. falciparum (PF) and P. vivax (PV) malaria. Perhaps most alarming, the characteristics of An. stephensi , such as container breeding and anthropophily, make it particularly adept at exploiting built environments in areas with no prior history of malaria risk.
In this paper we created global maps of thermal transmission suitability and people at risk (PAR) for malaria transmission by An. stephensi , under current and future climate. Temperature-dependent transmission suitability thresholds derived from recently published species-specific thermal curves were used to threshold gridded, monthly mean temperatures under current and future climatic conditions. These temperature driven transmission models were coupled with gridded population data for 2020 and 2050, under climate-matched scenarios for future outcomes, to compare with baseline predictions for 2020 populations.
Using the Global Burden of Disease regions approach, we found that heterogenous regional increases and decreases in risk did not mask the overall pattern of massive increases of PAR for malaria transmission suitability with An. stephensi presence. General patterns of poleward expansion for thermal suitability were seen for both PF and PV transmission potential.
Understanding the potential suitability for An. stephensi transmission in a changing climate provides a key tool for planning, given an ongoing invasion and expansion of the vector. Anticipating the potential impact of onward expansion to transmission suitable areas, and the size of population at risk under future climate scenarios, and where they occur, can serve as a large-scale call for attention, planning, and monitoring.
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Urban-adapted mosquitoes may spread malaria to new regions as the Earth warms