Malaria cases increase when Amazon forests are cut

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Washington, June 17 (ANI): Scientists have found a link between increased incidence of malaria and land-use practices in the Amazon.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have compiled a report, which combines detailed information on the incidence of malaria in 54 Brazilian health districts and high-resolution satellite imagery of the extent of logging in the Amazon forest, shows that clearing tropical forest landscapes boosts the incidence of malaria by nearly 50 percent.

"It appears that deforestation is one of the initial ecological factors that can trigger a malaria epidemic," says Sarah Olson, the lead author of the new report and a postdoctoral fellow at the Nelson Institute, Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

The deforestation creates favourable conditions for the mosquito Anopheles darlingi, which transmits the malaria parasite if it draws its blood meals from infected humans.The deforested landscape, with more open spaces and partially sunlit pools of water, appears to provide ideal habitat for this mosquito," said Olson.

"This study of human malaria cases complements our previous work that focused more on the abundance of the malaria-carrying mosquito. In those studies from the Peruvian Amazon, we showed a correlation between this mosquito's larvae and aquatic breeding sites in disturbed habitats following land clearance," says Patz.

Hence, tropical forest conservation may benefit human health more than we realized.

"Land-management practices show promise as useful interventions to reduce malaria risk factors," says Olson.

"The technology is there. The health data is there. Health officers with cell phones could gather data for the whole Amazon region," she adds.

The study is published in the current (June 16, 2010) online issue of the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. (ANI)

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