Malaria mosquito in Puglia, Anopheles sacharovi returns after 50 years: the real risks

Return to Puglia50 years after his death, the mosquito anopheles (Anopheles sacharovi), capable of transmitting the malaria. Diptera have been detected in Salento Between Lecce And Otranto by scientists from the Zooprophylactic Institute of Puglia and Basilicata, the ASL of Lecce and the Higher Institute of Health engaged in a joint surveillance project.

Anopheles mosquito in Puglia

A single specimen was initially found in September 2022. The discovery then led to the study which took place in September 2023. There were 11 sites analyzed and 6 tested positive for the Anopheles mosquito. Out of 216 mosquitoes and larvae caught, 20 they belonged to the species Anopheles sacharovi. The results of the study were published April 10 in the journal Parasites & Vectors.

Following the result, the researchers urged the authorities to strengthen health surveillance in the South to prevent the risk of malaria recurring. The riskit's good to clarify, it's just potential: the captured insects did not have malaria parasites. And the Anopheles mosquitoes, compared to the total, were relatively few.

The presence of this type of mosquito in Italy is significantly favored by climate change which is pushing towards the tropicalization of large areas of Southern Italy. Scientists then believe that the presence of this insect may be facilitated byabandonment large rural areas.

It is utopian to think that Italy is completely immune to malaria: malaria has occurred in our country in the last ten years hundreds of cases of malaria and almost all of them related to travelers returning from stays abroad. The presence of the Anopheles sacharovi mosquito in Southern Italy represents a relative risk: if the insect came into contact with an infected traveler and then sucked the blood of a healthy one, then it could spread malaria.

Not just the Anopheles sacharovi mosquito

And in recent years in Southern Italy, in addition to the Anopheles sacharovi mosquito, they have been found other species too potentially capable of transmitting malaria. In no case, however, did their presence represent a concrete risk to public health, as specified in the study published on Parasites & Vectors. The density of these insects “is not sufficiently relevant, from an epidemiological point of view, to constitute a threat to health”.

The news received wide coverage in the media, fueled by the previous alarm over the presence of Dengue in Italy. Therefore the invitation to the health authorities, and to the population, is to pay attention to the phenomenon but without unnecessary alarmism.

Malaria in Italy

At the beginning of the 20th century in Italy the areas affected by malaria almost covered 7 million hectares and the disease was of interest over 2,500 municipalities. Malaria remained effectively endemic until the first half of the twentieth century. The vertical collapse of cases occurred in the 1950s, as a result of the reclamation plan and the massive introduction of insecticides. But urbanization, the progressive improvement of agricultural techniques and the better living conditions of the rural population also played a decisive role.