A new laboratory unit inaugurated March 11 may take Cambodia’s fight against malaria another step forward.
Called an insectary, the unit set up at the National Malaria Center will make it possible to conduct research to better protect people against mosquitoes that transmit malaria and dengue fever, said Sean Hewitt, malaria control specialist with the European Commission Malaria Control Program.
“We want to study the mosquitoes specifically in the Cambodian context,” said National Malaria Center Director Duong Socheat.
Hewitt said the insectary consists of five rooms. Three rooms will be used for breeding the insects. The rooms will be equipped with sinks and basins to study mosquitoes during their aquatic stages, when they still are larvae and pupae, and with cages and mosquito nets to study adult insects. A laboratory with microscopes, a fiber-optic lighting system and other research facilities will be set up in the other two rooms.
The insectary will serve two major purposes, Hewitt said. The first will be training the staff in entomological field techniques such as standardized procedures developed by the World Health Organization. The second purpose will be to conduct applied entomological research. “We will breed three mosquito species of the genus Anopheles that transmit malaria and one specie of the genus Aedes that transmit dengue fever,” Hewitt said.
Research will include testing the efficiency of insecticides on mosquito nets. “Every country has its own set of conditions,” Hewitt said. For example, entomologists will want to find out whether any insecticide is left once people have washed their nets with soap or ash as some Cambodians do.
The entomologists may check how effective certain lids work at keeping mosquitoes out of water jars, and whether mosquitoes attack more fiercely people without protection who are sleeping next to others using hammock nets, Hewitt said.
Entomologists also may study how mosquitoes move in traditional huts. This will enable them to find the most efficient way to spray huts against the insects, Hewitt said.
The insectary was built with a contribution of approximately $40,000 provided by the European Commission, said Roberto Garcia, European co-director of the EC program. “The EC supports Cambodia in all aspects of its malaria program—prevention, treatment and research,” Garcia said, adding that the EC believes it is important for Cambodia to have the capability to conduct research in order to maintain an effective malaria control program.
Duong Socheat agreed, but said Cambodia will need help from international donors if the country is to pursue research.
Statistics for 2001 show progress in Cambodia’s efforts to prevent and treat malaria it in its early stages. A total of 115,614 cases were reported in 2001, compared to 129,167 cases in 2000, according to Duong Socheat. He said the number of deaths from malaria dropped to 476 in 2001 from 608 in 2000.