Exploring the potential of using cattle for malaria vector surveillance and control: a pilot study in western Kenya
Njoroge et al. Parasites & Vectors
Exploring the potential of using cattle for malaria vector surveillance and control: a pilot study in western Kenya
Margaret M. Njoroge 0
Inaki Tirados 2
Steven W. Lindsay 1
Glyn A. Vale 4
Stephen J. Torr 2 3
Ulrike Fillinger 0
0 International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Thomas Odhiambo Campus , 40305 Mbita , Kenya
1 Schools of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University , Durham DH1 3LE , UK
2 Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine , Liverpool L3 5QA , UK
3 Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick , Coventry CV4 7AL , UK
4 South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis, University of Stellenbosch , Stellenbosch , South Africa
Background: Malaria vector mosquitoes with exophilic and zoophilic tendencies, or with a high acceptance of alternative blood meal sources when preferred human blood-hosts are unavailable, may help maintain low but constant malaria transmission in areas where indoor vector control has been scaled up. This residual transmission might be addressed by targeting vectors outside the house. Here we investigated the potential of insecticide-treated cattle, as routinely used for control of tsetse and ticks in East Africa, for mosquito control. Methods: The malaria vector population in the study area was investigated weekly for 8 months using two different trapping tools: light traps indoors and cattle-baited traps (CBTs) outdoors. The effect of the application of the insecticide deltamethrin and the acaricide amitraz on cattle on host-seeking Anopheles arabiensis was tested experimentally in field-cages and the impact of deltamethrin-treated cattle explored under field conditions on mosquito densities on household level. Results: CBTs collected on average 2.8 (95% CI: 1.8-4.2) primary [Anopheles gambiae (s.s.), An. arabiensis and An. funestus (s.s.)] and 6.3 (95% CI: 3.6-11.3) secondary malaria vectors [An. ivulorum and An. coustani (s.l.)] per trap night and revealed a distinct, complementary seasonality. At the same time on average only 1.4 (95% CI: 0.8-2.3) primary and 1.1 (95% CI: 0.6-2.0) secondary malaria vectors were collected per trap night with light traps indoors. Amitraz had no effect on survival of host-seeking An. arabiensis under experimental conditions but deltamethrin increased mosquito mortality (OR 19, 95% CI: 7-50), but only for 1 week. In the field, vector mortality in association with deltamethrin treatment was detected only with CBTs and only immediately after the treatment (OR 0.25, 95% CI: 0.13-0.52). Conclusions: Entomological sampling with CBTs highlights that targeting cattle for mosquito control has potential since it would not only target naturally zoophilic malaria vectors but also opportunistic feeders that lack access to human hosts as is expected in residual malaria transmission settings. However, the deltamethrin formulation tested here although used widely to treat cattle for tsetse and tick control, is not suitable for the control of malaria vectors since it causes only moderate initial mortality and has little residual activity.
Malaria; Anopheles; Vector control; Insecticide-treated cattle; Cattle-baited trap
In sub-Saharan Africa, control of malaria is based largely
on the use of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) and
indoor residual spraying (IRS) . These interventions
have made a major contribution to malaria control
helping to reduce the incidence of clinical disease by
40% between 2000 and 2015 . Applied inside homes,
both interventions use insecticides directed at the
primary malaria vectors, namely Anopheles gambiae (s.s.),
An. arabiensis and An. funestus (s.s.) that show a strong
propensity for entering houses to rest and/or feed .
Despite major progress, malaria remains a concern
across the continent . Continued residual
transmission has been attributed to proportional changes in
host-seeking and resting patterns of vectors less affected
by indoor interventions . Primary and secondary
vectors with naturally more exophilic and zoophilic
tendencies or with a higher acceptance of alternative blood
meal sources when preferences are unavailable may help
maintain low but constant transmission [5–8]. It has
been realized that malaria elimination in some areas can
be achieved only if residual transmission is addressed
adequately. This includes targeting vectors for control
outside the house [9–11].
Since Plasmodium spp. that cause malaria in humans
do not affect livestock, it has previously been proposed
that malaria might be controlled by ‘zooprophylaxis’
which diverts zoophilic vectors from humans to
livestock [12, 13]. This intervention has been considered for
areas where the main malaria vectors are highly
zoophilic and exophagic and the livestock population is
large. Zooprophylaxis aims to reduce the number of
infective bites for humans. However, the evidence
collected thus far, has been contradictory and not
conclusive on the extent, if any, of the prophylactic effect of
An alternative method to classical zooprophylaxis
would be the direct application of an insecticide on
cattle to kill malaria vectors when feeding on the alternative
(non-human) host. In principle this approach should be
more effective since the insects responding to the cattle
would be removed permanently, as against being merely
diverted for a while and then remaining free to
reproduce and/or subsequently feed on humans. The
treatment of cattle with pyrethroids is already an important
‘One Health’ approach for the integrated control of
tick- and tsetse-borne pathogens affecting humans and
livestock . In East Africa, treatment of cattle with
pyrethroids is important for the control of East Coast
Fever (ECF), caused by Theileria parva transmitted by
ticks, and animal African trypanosomiasis, caused by
Trypanosoma vivax and T. congolense transmitted by
tsetse. Tsetse flies also transmit T. brucei rhodesiense which
causes Rhodesian human African trypanosomiasis, a fatal
zoonotic disease of humans found in East and southern
Africa. Cattle can act as a reservoir host for T. b.
rhodesiense [18, 19] and the treatment of cattle with pyrethroids
 is an important component in managing this disease
, particularly in south-east Uganda [22–24] where
most cases of Rhodesian human African trypanosomiasis
occur. Malaria is also co-endemic in most of the areas
where ECF, animal and human African trypanosomiasis
occur. Consequently, the approach might be extended to
the control of malaria in areas where malaria vectors feed
on cattle. This integrated control of tsetse and mosquitoes
has been proposed previously, especially for the Greater
Horn region and Maasai steppe of East Africa [25, 26].
The Lake Victoria basin of East Africa is well suited to
developing such a ‘One Health’ strategy since it has some
of the highest densities of humans and cattle in the
region. There is also an increase in zero-grazing practices
and consequently an increase in the numbers of cattle
close to homes. In some areas of western Kenya, cattle
are kept close to houses at night with a large proportion
of households actually keeping the livestock in the house
where the family sleeps . This provides on the one
hand a diverting food source for mosquito populations
that feed on animal hosts as well as people  and on
the other hand, presents an opportunity for killing
mosquitoes as they feed on cattle .
Topical application of the use of insecticide on cattle
to control mosquitoes has been explored in only a few
instances [28–30]. A study in Ethiopia  proposed that
pyrethroid-treated cattle could control malaria where the
main vector An. arabiensis is largely exophilic and
zoophilic. Importantly, the study showed that application of
insecticide on cattle did not increase the probability of
feeding on humans. Similar findings had been reported
from Pakistan for An. stephensi and An. culicifacies .
Here we undertook a study in western Kenya on the
shores of Lake Victoria where LLIN ownership and
usage is high and vector densities indoors have
decreased as a consequence [31–33]. Shifts in the relative
abundance of primary vector species have been
described ; whilst the overall number of An. gambiae
(s.l.) have declined the proportion of An. arabiensis, a
more exophilic vector, has increased. Furthermore,
secondary vectors have been suggested to be playing an
increasingly important role in malaria transmission .
The objectives of this study were three fold: (i) To
determine the knockdown and mortality of An. arabiensis
feeding on cattle treated with the insecticide
deltamethrin or the acaricide amitraz; the latter was included in
the study since it was found to be widely used in the
study area; (ii) To investigate the abundance and species
composition of primary and secondary vectors in the
study area with the aim to assess if cattle-targeted
interventions could be potentially useful for control of residual
malaria. This was done using two methods; indoors
with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) light traps close to a person and outdoors with
cattle-baited traps (CBTs); and (iii) To assess the
impact of deltamethrin-treated cattle under field
conditions on mosquito densities at the household level.
Bioassays were conducted at the International Centre of
Insect Physiology and Ecology at the Thomas Odhiambo
Campus (icipe-TOC) in Mbita, on the shores of Lake
Victoria in Homabay County, western Kenya (0°26'06.19"S,
34°12'53.13"E; altitude 1,137 m).
The field trial was carried out between December 2013
and July 2014 in 12 households in Kirindo (0°26'75.47"S,
34°15'05.48"E) and Kaugege (0°27'37.49"S, 34°16'84.78"E)
located 6–8 km from icipe-TOC (Fig. 1). Households
were < 500 m from the lake shore consequently in close
proximity to aquatic mosquito larval habitats throughout
the year. Malaria transmission is perennial and vectors
reported for the area include the primary vectors An.
arabiensis, An. gambiae (s.s.) and An. funestus (s.s.), and
the secondary vectors An. rivulorum and An. coustani
(s.l.). The rainfall pattern in the area is bimodal, with a
long wet season occurring between March to June and a
shorter and less reliable one between November and
December. Rainfall data for the study period were
collected from the meteorological station at icipe-TOC.
Fig. 1 Map of study area and household locations. a Overview of Lake Victoria basin area in western Kenya. Red circle shows field study area. b
Field study area showing location of households used for vector sampling and cattle treatment
Test products and application strategies
For the bioassays, local zebu cattle (males and females,
1–2 year-old, approximately 200–250 kg) were treated
with either (i) a 5% w/v emulsifiable concentrate of
deltamethrin (Vectocid®, CEVA Santé Animale Africa)
diluted with water at 1:1,000, or (ii) a 12.5% w/v
emulsifiable concentrate of amitraz (Almatix, Unga Farm Care
(EA) Ltd) diluted with water at 1:500 as per
manufacturers’ recommendations. The formulations were
prepared by adding 2 ml of Vectocid in 2 l of water and 4
ml of Almatix to 2 l of water; this approximates to 28-33
mg/m2 deltamethrin and 140–170 mg/m2 amitraz when
applied equally on the whole body surface area .
Two application protocols were tested: (i) restricted
application where the full volume was applied to only the
underbelly and legs ; and (ii) whole body application.
A placebo treatment of milky water (2 ml of milk diluted
in 2 l of water), simulating the visual appearance of the
insecticide preparation, was applied on the control cattle.
Applications were made using a high pressure back-pack
sprayer. Animals were rented from farms around
icipeTOC with the criterion that they had not received any
insecticide, acaricide or endectocide treatments in the
immediate 6 months before recruitment. The comparison
was repeated for different groups of three animals.
Study cattle were placed in retaining crushes mounted
on three raised wooden platforms constructed in a
secluded area with natural undisturbed vegetation at
icipe-TOC. Each platform was 2.5 × 2 m in area and
raised 0.5 m above the ground (Fig. 2). Platforms were
20 m apart. To prevent ants from scavenging dead and
dying mosquitoes during experiments, each leg of the
platform was partially immersed in metal containers
filled with water and the rest of the leg was coated with
insect-trapping adhesive (Oecotak, Oecos, UK). The
platforms were covered with rectangular cotton nets
(mesh size 1.2 × 1.2 mm) measuring 2.5 × 2.5 × 2.0 m.
The insecticide treatments were compared in a series of
replicated Latin squares of 3 platforms × 3 nights × 3
treatments (deltamethrin, amitraz and placebo). The
platform, crush and mosquito nets were washed daily to
prevent contamination of the cattle. On experimental
nights, the cattle were secured inside the platforms at
18:30 h. Comparisons were repeated for 11 groups of
three cattle treated with the restricted application
protocol. Bioassays were done on the evening of
treatment (= day 0) and at 3, 7 and 14 days post-treatment.
A second series of experiments was implemented in
nine groups of cattle where the whole bodies of the
cattle were treated at day 0 and retreated at day 15.
Bioassays were implemented on day 0, and thereafter at
days 3, 7, 14, 15 (= day 0 of the re-treatment), 18 (3),
25 (7) and 32 (14).
Two types of contact bioassays were implemented in
parallel: (i) cup bioassays in which insectary-reared
An. arabiensis were directly exposed to the treated
cattle; and (ii) bioassays in which free-flying
mosquitoes released under each net landed and fed naturally
on a study animal .
When the animals were placed in the crush, batches of
30 unfed female An. arabiensis were exposed in three
netting covered cups containing 10 females to the belly
of each animal. The cups were kept in position for 3
min and mosquitoes allowed to feed through the netting.
After exposure, the mosquitoes were returned to the
laboratory and kept under ambient conditions.
Knockdown was recorded at 1 h post-exposure and mortality
at 24 h.
Fig. 2 Cattle platforms. a Cattle platform and crush for insecticide bioassays with free-flying, host-seeking Anopheles arabiensis. b Concrete platform
covered with netting material used as cattle-baited mosquito trap
Free-flying mosquito bioassays
After the cup bioassays were done, the nets of the
platforms were lowered to enclose the animals. At 19:00 h,
200 unfed female An. arabiensis were introduced into
the netting enclosure and then collected using mouth
aspirators at 22:00 h when they were scored as knocked
down or alive. Knocked down and alive mosquitoes were
placed separately in 200 ml paper cups which were held
in a laboratory at ambient temperature and humidity;
the mosquitoes had access to a kitchen paper towel wick
soaked in 6% glucose solution. Any mosquitoes missed
during the night’s collection were collected at 08:00 h
the following morning. All mosquitoes were scored as
fed or unfed at time of collection. All mosquitoes collected
were scored as dead or alive 24 h after first exposure to
Confirmation of insecticidal activity of deltamethrin
formulation in bioassays with tsetse flies
Previous bioassays of the efficacy of deltamethrin
against tsetse have used the Decatix formulation (Cooper
Zimbabwe, Harare), a 5% (v/v) suspension concentrate
(s.c.) that has been employed routinely in large-scale tsetse
control operations in Zimbabwe and elsewhere [20, 38].
The Vectocid formulation of deltamethrin used in the
present study had not previously been tested against
mosquitoes or tsetse. Given the limited performance of
Vectocid for Anopheles control in this study, we compared
the performance of Vectocid and Decatix against tsetse as
an indicator for the insecticidal activity of this formulation.
The comparative studies were carried out at Rekomitjie
Research Station (16°7'60"S, 29°24'0"E) in the Zambezi
valley of Zimbabwe following a standard method [20, 38] in
which wild males and females of Glossina pallidipes were
caught after they had fed on untreated or treated cattle.
Treated cattle were sprayed with Vectocid applied to
either (i) the legs and belly only (restricted protocol) or (ii)
the whole body at the same concentration used in Kenya.
Decatix (5% deltamethrin s.c. diluted at 1 ml/l) was
applied to the whole body only.
The fed flies were placed in glass tubes (25 × 75 mm
long) which were sealed with netting at one end and a
cork at the other. Immediately after feeding the tubes
containing the flies were placed in a humidified polystyrene
box. At the end of the collection period (14:30–17:30 h),
the tubes were transferred to an insectary where they were
held at ~25 °C and ~70% RH for 2 h when knockdown
was assessed. Comparisons between treated and untreated
cattle were carried out for five different groups of animals.
Bioassays of tsetse daily continued up to 5 weeks after
treatment. The median number of tsetse collected from
insecticide-treated cattle per week, pooled across the five
comparisons, were 87 (range 55–130) males and 184
(range 117–326) females. For the untreated (i.e. control)
animals, the median number of tsetse assayed per week
were 31 (9–63) and 75 (24–114) for males and females,
respectively, with a total of 529 G. pallidipes collected from
untreated cattle across the entire trial.
Field study in western Kenya
Household surveys and enrolment
A survey of all households in the study location was
carried out to identify those that met the criteria of having
at least five cattle tethered close to the houses at night
and being > 100 m from other herds and human
dwellings. A total of 64 households were mapped and twelve
households randomly selected for the trial. Each of the
selected households provided informed consent after
receiving information about the objectives of the work.
The median number of people per household was 13 (range
9–37) and of cattle per household was 14 (range 5–55).
Monitoring mosquito populations
Indoor mosquito collections were implemented in all 12
households, in the room where the children (aged 3–14)
slept. A standard CDC light trap (John W. Hock, USA)
with an incandescent light was suspended 1 m above the
floor adjacent to the foot of the bed and operated from
19:00 h until 06:00 h the following morning. Children in
the room and all occupants in the house were protected
by LLINs (Olyset, Sumitomo Chemical) provided by the
study. Cattle-baited trap (CBT) collections were done
simultaneously outdoors in the same household. The
CBT was constructed within 20–50 m from the house
where the CDC trap was placed, at the location where
the cattle spent the night. A concrete platform (2 × 2.5 m)
was built with a water-filled moat 0.1 m deep and 0.3 m
wide to prevent ants from entering and a tethering post
was fixed at the centre. A rectangular cotton net (mesh
size 1.2 × 1.2 mm), suspended from supporting posts, was
draped over the platform (Fig. 2). To collect mosquitoes,
an animal from the household was selected by the owner
(usually a well-tempered heifer) and was tethered to the
post from 18:30 h and the netting material firmly secured
on all sides except one where the netting was raised 30
cm above the ground to allow mosquitoes to enter. At
06:00 h the following morning, the raised side of the
netting was lowered to enclose all trapped mosquitoes which
were then collected using a mouth aspirator. All
mosquitoes collected were taken to the laboratory and killed in a
freezer. Sampling was done weekly in all households
between December 2013 and July 2014.
Mosquitoes were identified morphologically to genus
and to species level where possible. Individuals of the
An. gambiae and An. funestus species complexes were
identified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and
gel-electrophoresis [39, 40]. The An. coustani group
was not further analysed with molecular tools.
Since the bioassays showed that amitraz had no
significant effect on the knockdown or mortality of mosquitoes
we assessed the impact of deltamethrin-treatment of
cattle on mosquito collections in homesteads by
comparing herds treated with deltamethrin (test) to herds
treated with amitraz (control) as we considered this best
practice for animal husbandry. In March 2014, each of
the 12 households was allocated to either the
deltamethrin or amitraz arms of the trial. Since mosquito densities
were highly variable, households were ranked according
to their total number of An. gambiae (s.l.) collected
indoors and outdoors during the period November 2013
March 2014, before the treatments started. Then we
randomly allocated one household per consecutive pair
of households in the ranked sequence to the
deltamethrin arm of the study. Treatment of cattle started on the
15th of April 2014 and ended on 26th of June 2014
with a total of six fortnightly applications applied over
12 weeks. Cattle herds of four households were treated
per day and so treatment of all cattle required three
days. Within each spraying day, an equal number of
herds were treated with amitraz. Between 30 and 70
cattle were treated on each treatment day and the
dosage and application was the same as in the
Susceptibility to deltamethrin
Studies were made of the susceptibility of wild
mosquitoes to deltamethrin. Late instar Anopheles larvae were
collected from aquatic habitats in the study area and
brought to icipe-TOC in their habitat water. The larvae
were placed in open containers in well-lit
nettingscreened greenhouses and held under ambient
conditions until pupation. They were allowed to grow and
develop in water obtained from their wild habitats and
food was added sparingly to supplement the nutrients
contained in the habitat water.
Pupae were collected and placed in 80 ml emergence
cups (7 cm diameter, 4 cm deep). These cups were kept
inside 30 × 30 × 30 cm netting-screened mosquito cages
and monitored for development and emergence into
adult stage. Due to different emergence days, mosquitoes
were given a three-day emergence window and then An.
gambiae (s.l.) selected for testing. Mosquitoes were
placed in an experimental cage and maintained on 6%
glucose solution; humidity was maintained by placing a
moist cloth over the cage. When the youngest
mosquitoes were three days old, mosquitoes were tested for
insecticide resistance following the guidelines of the
World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Scheme
(WHOPES) . In summary, 25 adult female mosquitoes
were exposed to deltamethrin insecticide-impregnated
papers for one hour and observed for knockdown and
mortality up to 24 h. This was replicated three times.
Groups of control mosquitoes were exposed to
oilimpregnated papers. Molecular species identification of all
tested mosquitoes confirmed that all specimens were An.
All analyses were carried out using R statistical software
 or IBM SPSS Statistics 20. Proportions of
mosquitoes knocked down or killed in insecticide bioassays
were analysed using generalized linear mixed models
(glmer) fitted with a binomial data distribution and a
logit link function generating odd ratios (OR) and their
associated confidence intervals (CI). The denominator
for the field-cage bioassays was the total number of
females recovered per experimental night. The unique
animal identifier and the round (cluster of animals
treated at the same time) were included in the model as
random effects. Treatment type (placebo, amitraz and
deltamethrin), day post-treatment and cattle platform
identifier were included in the model as fixed factors.
The location of the cattle platform had no significant
association with the outcome and was removed from the
final models. Interaction terms were included for
treatment type and day post-treatment. Mean proportions
and their associated 95% CI were predicted based on the
model parameter estimates. Data from the three cups
fixed on the same animal per test day were pooled to
provide a single data point.
Results from experimental nights when mortality in
the placebo treatment exceeded 20% were excluded from
the analysis. Generalized estimating equations were used
to analyse the data from the field trial. The trap location
(household identification number) was included as
repeated measure. Counts were analysed by fitting a negative
binomial distribution with log link function. An
exchangeable correlation matrix was assumed. Depending on the
question to be answered, trapping method (CBT, CDC),
months or/and treatment were included as fixed factors in
the models. To analyse the impact of the spray week on
species counts, the treatment, spray week and the
interaction between treatment and spray week were included in
the model. All presented means and their 95% CI were
modelled as the exponential of the parameter estimates for
models with no intercept included.
Fig. 3 Bioassay results presented as box-plots showing the median proportion of dead Anopheles arabiensis exposed to placebo-, amitraz- and
deltamethrin-treated cattle. a Results from the restricted application protocol. b Results from the whole body application protocol; red arrows
indicate the re-treatment. The graphs in rows (i) and (ii) refer to the cup bioassays (three cups per animal per night, 10 mosquitoes per cup) and
in row (iii) to the field-cage bioassays with free-flying mosquitoes (200 mosquitoes per treatment and night). The limits of the boxes indicate the
twenty-fifth and seventy-fifth percentiles; the solid line in the box is the median; the capped bars indicate the tenth and the ninetieth percentiles,
and data points outside these limits are plotted as circles. Asterisk indicates statistical significance at P < 0.05 based on analyses with generalized
mixed linear models with animal ID and cluster as random effect and treatment, night and interaction of treatment and night as fixed effect
only showed a significant knockdown for up to seven
days after application (Fig. 3). Deltamethrin-exposed
mosquitoes were 10 times (95% CI: 4–22) more likely to
be knocked down than the placebo-exposed (control)
mosquitoes for the first week after application. This
impact was slightly stronger for mortality recorded 24 h
after exposure (Fig. 3). A female mosquito exposed to
deltamethrin in cup bioassays on treatment day was 39
times (95% CI: 22–68) more likely to die within 24 h of
exposure than a control female. Whilst the natural
mortality in the control group remained constant over time, the
mean mortality in the deltamethrin group declined
quickly. On Day 7 post-application, deltamethrin-exposed
mosquitoes were only 2.7 times (95% CI: 1.2–5.9) more
likely to die than the placebo group. No significant effect
was recorded beyond a week after application.
Under more natural conditions of field cages, the
deltamethrin treatment (Fig. 3) was associated with a
mortality that was 3.9 (95% CI: 2.1–7.1) times greater than
for the placebo group, i.e. still significantly higher than
the control but only a tenth of that indicated by the cup
bioassays. This treatment effect halved three days
posttreatment (interaction between deltamethrin treatment
and Day 3: OR 0.5, 95% CI: 0.3–0.8) and was absent on
Day 7 and 14 post-treatment. Whilst the impact was
significant, the estimated mean mortality rate was only 0.26
Fig. 4 Recollection rates of Anopheles arabiensis from field cages. a Results from the restricted application protocol. b Results from the whole
body application protocol. The graphs in row (i) show the rate recollected of all released; the graphs in row (ii) show the rate blood fed of all
recollected. The limits of the boxes indicate the twenty-fifth and seventy-fifth percentiles; the solid line in the box is the median; the capped bars
indicate the tenth and the ninetieth percentiles, and data points outside these limits are plotted as circles. Asterisk indicates statistical significance
at P < 0.05 based on analyses with generalized mixed linear models with animal ID and cluster as random effect and treatment, night and interaction
of treatment and night as fixed effect
(95% CI: 0.16–0.42) on Day 0 and 0.12 (95% CI: 0.07–
0.20) on Day 3 compared to 0.05 (95% CI: 0.03–0.09)
in the placebo group.
Of all the mosquitoes released in the field cages, a
median proportion of 0.9 was recovered, either dead or
alive but this varied between nights and treatments, as
shown by the interquartile range of 0.63–0.96 (Fig. 4).
There was a significantly reduced rate of recovery
associated with the deltamethrin treatment on treatment day
(i.e. Day 0) and Day 3 post-treatment (OR 0.48, 95% CI:
0.31–0.77) as compared to the recovery rate in the
placebo group or to other days.
Whole body application protocol
Amitraz applied to the whole body did also not affect
mosquito survival in any of the bioassays (Fig. 3). The
application of deltamethrin on the whole body
improved the impact of the insecticide on host-seeking
An. arabiensis. As with the restricted application,
mortality 24 h after exposure was higher than the 1 h
knockdown and there was a significantly higher mortality
associated with the deltamethrin treatment up to 14 days
after application as compared to the placebo (Fig. 3). A
mosquito exposed to deltamethrin in cup bioassays on the
day of treatment was 205 times (95% CI: 85–495) more
likely to die 24 h after exposure than a mosquito from the
placebo group. There was a significant decline in mortality
in the deltamethrin group with time. This reduction was
more marked for the first treatment interval (Fig. 3). For
example, the odds of a mosquito dying in the cup bioassay
exposed 3 days after the treatment of the cattle with
deltamethrin was 4.7 (95% CI: 1.6–12.3) times greater than the
odds of dying in the placebo group in the first round
compared to 8.2 (95% CI: 3.1–20.3) times greater in the
second round of application. Whilst the impact was still
statistically significant 14 days after applications in the cup
bioassays, the mean mortality rate was only 0.28 (95% CI:
0.15–0.50) compared to a mortality rate of 0.11 (95% CI:
0.07–0.17) in the placebo group.
The results from the field-cage bioassays with
freeflying mosquitoes showed that the overall effect of
deltamethrin was less than that with the cup bioassay.
Nonetheless, treating the whole body fortnightly
produced a larger and longer-lasting effect than when only
a restricted application was done (Fig. 3). Mosquitoes
exposed to whole body deltamethrin-treated cattle were
19 (95% CI: 7–50) times more likely to die after exposure
on application days (Day 0 and Day 15) than those
exposed to the placebo-treated cattle. The effect was
significantly associated with the test day post-treatment
showing a rapid decline. Already 3 days post-treatment
this effect was 9-fold reduced (OR 0.11, 95% CI: 0.04–
0.40) leading to an estimated mean mortality rate of 0.11
(95% CI: 0.6–0.23). In contrast to the cup bioassay results,
no improved residual effect was observed from the
fieldcage bioassays. Mortality rates were similar on
corresponding post-application days during both application
rounds (Fig. 3). Overall recovery of released females was
better during the whole body application bioassays than
during the bioassays with restricted application with a
median of 0.91 and an interquartile range of 0.86–0.94
(Fig. 4). Recollection rates were not associated with
treatment type or post-treatment day.
Impact of insecticide treatment on anopheles blood feeding
While all of the An. arabiensis fed when exposed in the
cup bioassays, only 0.87 (interquartile range: 0.79–0.96,)
of all recovered females had fed in the first series of cage
assays when cattle was treated on legs and underbelly
only, with no significant effect of treatment types and
days post-treatment. For the second series of cage
assays, using whole-body treatment of cattle (Fig. 4), 0.65
(interquartile range: 0.52–0.74) fed and there was a
significant interaction between feeding and treatment day;
females were 1.8–2.8 times less likely to feed on cattle
freshly treated with deltamethrin than placebo treated
animals (Day 0: OR 0.55, 95% CI: 0.37–0.81; Day 15: OR
0.35, 95% CI: 0.28–0.44). Amitraz had no impact on
blood-feeding (Fig. 4).
Susceptibility of tsetse
The percentage knockdown for all tsetse collected from
untreated cattle was low (10/529; 1.9%) and so no
correction was made for control knockdown in
comparisons between insecticide-treated animals. The results
(Fig. 5) show that the two deltamethrin formulations
applied to the whole body were equally effective, with a
knockdown of > 0.5 (i.e. > 50%) for 3 weeks. Restricted
application of Vectocid was less effective with the
knockdown being > 0.5 for 2 weeks. For both the whole
body and restricted applications, the performance of
Vectocid against tsetse in Zimbabwe was better than
that against An. arabiensis in Kenya.
Mosquito species composition and population dynamics
Over the 8 months a total of 852 mm of rainfall was
recorded with increased precipitation during the rainy
season March to May (Fig. 6). A total of 14,431 mosquitoes
were collected with CBTs, of which 10,942 were
culicines (76%) with most (75%) belonging to the genus
Mansonia. The 3,489 Anopheles collected with CBTs
belonged to five species: An. rivulorum (1,706; 48.9%),
An. arabiensis (759; 21.8%), An. coustani (s.l.) (724;
20.8%), An. funestus (s.s.) (284; 8.1%) and An. gambiae
(s.s.) (16; 0.5%). On average 2.8 (95% CI: 1.8–4.2) primary
malaria vectors [An. gambiae (s.s.), An. arabiensis and An.
funestus (s.s.)] and 6.3 (95% CI: 3.6–11.3) secondary
malaria vectors (An. rivulorum and An. coustani) were
collected per trap night with CBTs. Only 2% of the
Anopheles and 4% of the culicines collected in CBTs
were male. Of the females, 96% of the Anopheles and
93% of the culicines were blood-fed.
Over the same time period, only 2,653 mosquitoes
were collected indoors with CDC light traps, of which
1,749 (66%) were culicines, primarily Mansonia (75%).
Only 904 Anopheles, four times fewer than with CBTs,
were collected with CDC light traps belonging to the
same five species. The species composition was: An.
rivulorum (379, 41.9%), An. funestus (s.s.) (328; 36.6%),
An. arabiensis (155; 17.1%), An. coustani (24, 2.7%) and
An. gambiae (s.s.) (18; 2%). On average 1.4 (95% CI:
0.8–2.3) primary malaria vectors and 1.1 (95% CI: 0.6–2.0)
secondary malaria vectors were collected per CDC trap
night. Males represented 4% of the Anopheles catch and
11% of the culicines catch. Of the Anopheles females, 22%
were blood-fed and of the culicines females 24%.
Anopheles gambiae (s.s.) was the rarest Anopheles
species in both indoor and outdoor collections. The
probability of collecting a specimen of this species was
similar for both collection methods over the 8 months
study period (Fig. 7a) with a mean catch per trap night
of 0.04 (95% CI: 0.02–0.08). The mean number per trap
night of the sibling species An. arabiensis was 9 times
higher (mean 0.40, 95% CI: 0.23–0.70) in CDC light
traps, and 47 times higher (mean 1.98, 95% CI: 1.37–
2.86) in CBTs than of An. gambiae (s.s.). Anopheles
arabiensis showed a distinct seasonality in the outdoor
collections with high numbers at the end of the short
rains and a peak during the long rains. This
seasonality was not as apparent in the indoor collections
Two sibling species of the An. funestus group were
identified: An. funestus (s.s.) and An. rivulorum. The
mean density of An. funestus (s.s.) per month was
similar when measured with CDC light traps indoors or
with CBTs outdoors (Fig. 7a) and was on average per
trap night 0.8 (95% CI: 0.5–1.3). Anopheles rivulorum
was the more abundant species of the complex in both
trapping methods and was overall the predominant
Anopheles species in the study area. Anopheles
rivulorum was collected in greater numbers in the CBTs. It
was 4.5 (95% CI: 3.0–6.9) times more likely to trap an
An. rivulorum specimen in CBTs (mean per trap night:
4.5, 95% CI: 2.6–7.6) than light traps (mean per trap
night: 1.0, 95% CI: 0.6–1.7).
Fig. 5 Tsetse knockdown rate in response to two deltamethrin formulations. Proportion knockdown (± 95% CI) of female (open bars) and male
(solid bars) G. pallidipes exposed to cattle treated with (a) Decatix or (b) Vectocid applied to the whole body or (c) Vectocid applied to the legs
and belly only
Numbers of the An. funestus complex were greatest
during the dry season between January and March
(Fig. 7a) whereas An. gambiae (s.l.) peaked in May-June
during the wet season. Anopheles coustani (s.l.) showed
no marked seasonality and was almost exclusively
collected by the CBTs (Fig. 7a): capture of An. coustani
(s.l.) was 30 (95% CI: 14–66) times more likely outdoors
(mean per trap night: 1.9, 95% CI: 0.8–4.5) than indoors.
Culicine mosquitoes, representing the largest proportion
of mosquitoes collected with either method, were
collected in similar numbers throughout the study (Fig. 7a).
However, the probability of collecting a specimen with
Impact of insecticide treatment on mosquitoes
There was no significant effect of the intervention
(deltamethrin vs. amitraz) on the mean monthly
mosquito numbers collected by the two types of traps
(Fig. 7b). Differences between intervention and control
densities for An. funestus (s.s.), An. rivulorum and An.
coustani (s.l.) in the CBTs (Fig. 7b) need to be
interpreted with caution since these differences existed
Fig. 6 Monthly cumulative rainfall (in mm) in the study area
before any cattle were sprayed, as shown in Fig. 7b for
the first half of April.
Results from the bioassays showed a significant effect
for the week following treatment and we therefore
analysed the data to determine whether a similar transient
effect occurred in the field study. The results (Fig. 8)
show that while there was no significant impact on
mosquitoes caught indoors, there was indeed a significant
reduction in the number of mosquitoes caught on cattle
immediately after treatment compared to the following
week (8 days post-treatment). The mean number of
mosquitoes collected per CBT night was similar in both
weeks and for all species for the amitraz-treated herds
but was significantly lower immediately after treatment
than 1 week later for all species in the
deltamethrintreated herds (Fig. 8). On average for all Anopheles
species combined it was 4 times less likely (OR 0.25, 95%
CI: 0.13–0.52) to catch a live specimen with CBTs
immediately after treatment than 1 week later.
Susceptibility of wild An. arabiensis to deltamethrin
The mean mortality of wild An. arabiensis exposed to
deltamethrin-treated papers was 0.89 (95% CI: 0.81–0.94)
compared to the control of 0.18 (95% CI: 0.09–0.31). Since
the total mortality in the control group was higher that
15%, Abbots correction  was performed resulting in a
corrected mortality of 0.87 (95% CI: 0.80–0.93).
Our results show that the current practices and
insecticide/acaricide formulations used to control tsetse
and ticks in East Africa are unlikely to have a marked
effect on malaria vector mosquitoes. The bioassays
revealed that amitraz, an amidine acaricide widely used
to control ticks  and previously described to have
repellent activity , has neither repelling nor killing
effects against Anopheles mosquitoes, whilst the deltamethrin
formulation at the concentration and application rates
recommended against ticks and tsetse had a moderate
(<50% mortality) and short-lived (~1 week) impact on
survival in experiments with free-flying mosquitoes in large
field cages and in the field. We confirm observations from
other studies  that cup bioassays largely overestimate
the actual impact of the treatment on mosquito survival
emphasizing the need for testing of insecticides under as
natural conditions as possible. The performance observed
here of deltamethrin was comparable to that reported from
similar studies conducted in Ethiopia . In contrast, a
study of malaria mosquitoes exposed to
deltamethrintreated cattle in Pakistan found mortality persisting at
around 40% for up to 2 weeks . Potential explanations
for this difference include the formulation used, application
of insecticide using sponges rather than spraying and
differences in the susceptibility of the mosquito
populations. The restricted application of deltamethrin to the
underbelly and legs only, as practiced for tsetse control
to reduce costs and environmental impact  and as
suggested for mosquito control , did not show the
expected results. Whole body application increased the
mortality rate in our experiments significantly.
Results from the field trial confirmed that treating
cattle with deltamethrin does not produce a marked
reduction in the numbers of malaria mosquitoes. However,
the absence of any measurable impact on monthly mean
mosquito numbers is not surprising given the rapid
decline of the killing effect of deltamethrin within a
week as shown in the bioassays. Moreover, the small
number of herds treated in this pilot study would not
lead to a community-wide reduction in mosquito
populations. Consistent with the results from the bioassays,
there was a significant decline in the numbers of
mosquitoes caught in CBTs immediately after the treatment
of the animals but was not detectable after seven days.
This reduction was likely due to the combination of
immediate toxic and possibly repellent effects. Mosquitoes
that entered the trap, fed and died during the night were
less easy to find the following morning, thereby reducing
the number of mosquitoes recovered. In addition we
recorded in the field-cage bioassays a reduced proportion
of females that were blood-fed on treatment days
suggesting a repellent effect of the treatment. However,
studies of An. arabiensis in Ethiopia found that treating
cattle with deltamethrin did not reduce the numbers of
mosquitoes landing on them but it did reduce the
proportion that fed  suggesting that the repellent effect
is not long-range.
A greater impact on mosquito survival might be
expected if the intervention was applied with higher
frequency (e.g. weekly). However, fortnightly application is
the highest application rate currently permitted for these
products. In practice, resource-poor livestock keepers
Fig. 7 (See legend on next page.)
(See figure on previous page.)
Fig. 7 Mean numbers of mosquitoes collected per trap night. a Catch per mosquito species per trap night per month for CDC light trap and CBT
collections. b Catch per mosquito species per trap night for intervention period only, comparing control and intervention sites separately for CDC
light traps (left side of graphs) and CBTs (right side of graphs). The first data point from April shows the mean for half the month at baseline. The
vertical bars show the 95% confidence interval
seldom treat their cattle so frequently. A recent
mixedmethods study of 495 livestock keepers in Uganda
suggested that 37% treated their cattle at fortnightly
intervals during the wet season . Moreover,
programmes to control Rhodesian sleeping sickness aim to
treat ~20% of cattle each month [21, 22, 24]. Hence it
seems unlikely that farmers treating their cattle primarily
to control ticks and tsetse would achieve application
rates higher than those tested in this study. Furthermore,
the insecticide tested is identical to those used for
mosquito control indoors and subject to increasing levels of
resistance . Accordingly, treating cattle for mosquito
control with pyrethroids is unlikely to be sustainable and
frequent application would contribute to even more
rapid development of resistance . Already,
deltamethrin resistance of An. arabiensis from the study area
was documented with the WHO tube bioassays, where
mortality was less than 90%. Recent publications also
report growing pyrethroid resistance in a number of the
malaria vector species in the study area [35, 47, 48]. This
might have also contributed to the limited effect of the
Studying the Anopheles population with two different
trapping tools in parallel provided important insights
into species composition and abundance. We found five
Anopheles species that have the potential of transmitting
malaria occurring in relatively small numbers but
throughout the year. Ten to 15 years ago, in the same
study area, CDC light traps operated indoors caught
relatively large numbers (> 30 per trap night) of
Anopheles, comprising roughly equal proportions of An. gambiae
(s.s.) and An. arabiensis . In the present study, the
abundance of An. gambiae (s.s.) was extremely low; we
caught a total of 34 over a period of 7 months or 762 trap
nights. Notably, these were collected in similar numbers
with CDC light traps around human hosts and with CBTs.
Anopheles arabiensis however were 9 times more
abundant in light traps and 47 times more abundant in CBT
than An. gambiae (s.s.) confirming a species shift in recent
years within the An. gambiae complex likely due to indoor
Fig. 8 Comparison of deltamethrin impact in field immediately after treatment (wk. 0) and 1 week later (wk. 1). Mean mosquito catch per trap
night in intervention period separate for CDC light trap collections and cattle-baited trap (CBT) collections in control and intervention (test) sites.
Anopheles coustani was not included in this analysis due to high baseline variability. The vertical bars show the 95% confidence interval. Asterisk
indicates statistical significance at P < 0.05 based on analyses with generalized mixed linear models
vector control as described for other areas [50, 51].
Similarly, An. rivulorum, the more exophilic member of the
An. funestus group dominated the catches in both
trapping methods over An. funestus (s.s.), and was in fact the
most abundant Anopheles species collected. It has been
suggested recently for the study area that An. rivulorum is
involved in malaria transmission with a sporozoite rate
similar to that of An. funestus (s.s.)  and historical
literature highlights the potential of this vector to maintain
malaria transmission after the control or elimination of
the major endophilic vectors . The mosquitoes
collected with CBTs show clearly the high abundance of this
species in the study area which underlines the need to
investigate the role of so-called secondary vectors in residual
malaria transmission and the need for additional vector
control tools targeting exophilic species. Another potential
malaria vector in the study area was An. coustani (s.l.).
This species would have been nearly overlooked if only
indoor collections had been implemented, since few enter
houses. Sporozoite infection rates have not yet been
investigated for this species in the study area and testing was
beyond the scope of this project. However, an increasing
number of reports suggest an important role for An.
coustani as a malaria vector in changing transmission settings
in East Africa  and beyond [53, 54]. Due to its absence
from the indoor environment , this vector will not be
adequately targeted by current vector control interventions.
It needs to be emphasized that the aim of using the
two trapping tools was not to compare biting rates
directly but rather to characterise the vector population
as it presents itself with the two tools. Clearly, we do not
know how mosquitoes collected from CBTs relate to
outdoor biting on humans in this particular setting. Also
the trap type compounds the catch size and the trapping
efficiency of light traps and CBTs certainly differs. Here
our aim was to gauge if the standard method of
monitoring adult vectors with CDC light traps close to a
protected human volunteer indoors does represent the
potential malaria vector species composition, overall
abundance and seasonality in an area where LLIN
coverage is high. The CBT collections suggest that far higher
numbers of vectors are present in the study area than
that suggested by the CDC light trap collections. Whilst
the same five vector species were collected with both
trapping methods, over five times more An. arabiensis
and secondary vectors were recorded with the CBTs and
An. gambiae (s.s.) and An. funestus (s.s.), generally
considered highly anthropophilic, were notably recorded
outdoors on cattle in a similar density as indoors close
to humans. Of notable interest was the readiness of An.
funestus (s.s.) to feed on cattle which was in line with
what had recently been reported from Tanzania .
This supports the hypothesis that cattle-targeted vector
control interventions would not only target naturally
zoophilic vectors but would also affect opportunistic
feeders that lack access to human hosts as is expected in
residual transmission settings.
The CBT collections also revealed a distinct
seasonality for different vector species, with An. coustani being
present throughout the year, whilst the An. funestus
group showed higher densities during the drier months
and the An. gambiae group during the rainy season.
Potentially, this could indicate that different vectors
are responsible for malaria transmission throughout
the year. Further research is required to investigate
this. Whether all vectors collected on cattle may also
have fed on humans remains uncertain. However, the
presence of all species indoors and the recent report of
sporozoite infections in An. rivulorum, suggest that
humans are amongst the blood hosts.
There is a pressing need to reassess methods of
monitoring mosquito vectors. Human-landing catches
performed outdoors would sample exophagic species but
concerns about the ethics and safety means that this
method is seldom used. Cattle-baited traps would be
effective and might be more frequently considered in
research programmes since we show that they not only
attract vectors known to be highly or partly zoophilic
but also represent the primary, anthropophilic vectors
similarly well as human-baited light trap collections
indoors. While the CBTs used here are not convenient for
routine mosquito surveillance in large-scale vector
control programmes, they do suggest that there is an
opportunity to develop additional tools for sampling
mosquitoes outdoors. The ubiquity of cattle in rural
areas of sub-Saharan Africa provides a natural and
abundant source of host odours which could be exploited for
sampling systems. The much larger sample of malaria
and other mosquito-borne disease vectors, i.e. Mansonia
vectors of lymphatic filariasis, from CBTs also provides a
better opportunity for screening a large number of
samples for sporozoite infections and infections of
bacteria and viruses that are usually rare.
The deltamethrin formulation used to treat cattle for
tsetse and tick control tested here is not suitable for the
control of malaria vectors since it causes only moderate
initial mortality and has no residual activity. Research
into long-lasting formulations persisting at least for 1
month would be desirable. However, given that pyrethroids
are the only class of insecticide currently licensed to treat
mosquito nets, and the increasing resistance of malaria
vectors against pyrethroids insecticides , it would be
wise to investigate alternatives with a completely different
mode of action [9, 46]. Our entomological sampling with
CBTs highlights that targeting cattle for mosquito control
has potential. Cattle-targeted interventions would not only
target zoophilic malaria vectors but also affect
opportunistic feeders that feed on animals when human hosts are less
available. Such a situation is likely in residual malaria
transmission settings where a large proportion of the human
population use insecticidal bed nets. Cattle-based
intervention would also target other genera of mosquito vectors
responsible for human and animal diseases [57, 58].
Cattletargeted interventions offer an opportunity to develop
‘One Health’ integrated vector management tools aimed at
improving human and animal health. Such an approach
would be attractive to farmers and might ensure better
adherence to treatment regimens .
CBT: Cattle-baited traps; CDC: Centers for disease control and prevention;
ECF: East coast fever; icipe-TOC: International centre of insect physiology and
ecology - Thomas Odhiambo campus; IRS: Indoor residual spraying;
LLIN: Long-lasting insecticidal nets; WHO: World Health Organization
We thank Patrick Sawa and Richard Mukabana for their support in developing
the ethics protocols and their oversight of the study; Peter Njiru for overseeing
the data collection for the bioassays for the first 6 months of the study; Richard
Ochieng, Paul Odhiambo Okiki and Zach Leonard Wanga for assistance in the
field; Joel Odero for species analyses and the icipe-TOC insectary team, David
Alila and Elisha Obudho for providing mosquitoes. We are grateful to CEVA and
IKARE for funding this work, and in particular the enthusiastic interest and
support of Anne Holm Rannaleet (IKARE) and Pierre Marie Borne (CEVA) and
Mr William Shereni, Director of the Division of Tsetse Control, Zimbabwe, for
making available the facilities at Rekomitjie.
This work was funded by IKARE, a venture philanthropy charity supported by IK
Investment Partners, and CEVA Santé Animale, which also provided the pesticides.
Availability of data and materials
The datasets analysed during the current study are available from the
corresponding author on reasonable request.
SJT, SWL and UF conceived and designed this study. UF, IT and SJT developed
the research protocols. MN and GAV implemented the experiments and field
work in Kenya and Zimbabwe, respectively. UF and SJT analysed the data.
UF and MN wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to
the final draft of the manuscript and read and approved it.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Approval for this study was obtained from the Animal Care and Use Committee
of the Institute of Primate Research, Nairobi, Kenya and the Kenya Medical
Research Institute’s Ethical Review Committee (Protocol no. 363). Consent was
sought from all of the cattle farmers in the study before sampling.
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