Impact of cattle on the abundance of indoor and outdoor resting malaria vectors in southern Malawi

Monicah M. Mburu*, Kennedy Zembere, Themba Mzilahowa, Anja D. Terlouw, Tumaini Malenga, Henk van den Berg, Willem Takken, Robert S. McCann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Understanding the blood feeding preferences and resting habits of malaria vectors is important for assessing and designing effective malaria vector control tools. The presence of livestock, such as cattle, which are used as blood meal hosts by some malaria vectors, may impact malaria parasite transmission dynamics. The presence of livestock may provide sufficient blood meals for the vectors, thereby reducing the frequency of vectors biting humans. Alternatively, the presence of cattle may enhance the availability of blood meals such that infectious mosquitoes may survive longer, thereby increasing the risk of malaria transmission. This study assessed the effect of household-level cattle presence and distribution on the abundance of indoor and outdoor resting malaria vectors. Methods: Houses with and without cattle were selected in Chikwawa district, southern Malawi for sampling resting malaria vectors. Prokopack aspirators and clay pots were used for indoor and outdoor sampling, respectively. Each house was sampled over two consecutive days. For houses with cattle nearby, the number of cattle and the distances from the house to where the cattle were corralled the previous night were recorded. All data were analysed using generalized linear models fitted with Poisson distribution. Results: The malaria vectors caught resting indoors were Anopheles gambiae sensustricto (s.s.), Anopheles arabiensis and Anopheles funestuss.s. Outdoor collections consisted primarily of An. arabiensis. The catch sizes of indoor resting An. gambiae sensulato (s.l.) were not different in houses with and without cattle (P = 0.34). The presence of cattle near a house was associated with a reduction in the abundance of indoor resting An. funestuss.l. (P = 0.04). This effect was strongest when cattle were kept overnight ≤ 15 m away from the houses (P = 0.03). The blood meal hosts varied across the species. Conclusion: These results highlight differences between malaria vector species and their interactions with potential blood meal hosts, which may have implications for malaria risk. Whereas An. arabiensis remained unaffected, the reduction of An. funestuss.s. in houses near cattle suggests a potential protective effect of cattle. However, the low abundance of mosquitoes reduced the power of some analyses and limited the generalizability of the results to other settings. Therefore, further studies incorporating the vectors’ host-seeking behaviour/human biting rates are recommended to fully support the primary finding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number353
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2021


  • Anophelines
  • Blood-meal hosts
  • Cattle
  • Indoors
  • Outdoors
  • Resting
  • Zooprophylaxis


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