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RESEARCH: New malaria study to influence future home design in hot, humid Africa

July 25, 2022
RESEARCH: New malaria study to influence future home design in hot, humid Africa
"Star home" photos snipped from Malaria Journal. GRAPHIC | IFAKARA/Coms

Scientists from Ifakara Health Institute and partner institutions plan a malaria study whose findings could influence the future construction of homes in hot and humid Africa. The study will assess whether living in a new house model they recommend can help reduce malaria in children.

According to a paper published on the BMC Journal recently – and its revision published on July 7th 2022, researchers will explore and compare results of children using the novel house they named “Star” to those using traditional sub-Saharan African houses in a rural setting.

“This is the first randomized controlled trial to assess the protective efficacy of a new house design targeting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa,” read in part the paper entitled: “Assessing the impact of a novel house design on the incidence of malaria in children in rural Africa: study protocol for a household-cluster randomized controlled superiority trial”.

The design shows the study will recruit 1,650 children under the age of 13 who will be selected randomly from 550 households in 60 villages in Mtwara, Tanzania. Approximately 330 children will stay in “Star” home and the rest - 1,320 – in traditional rural houses. They will then be followed for 3 years.

The study began in 2018 with random allocation of houses and is set to be completed by December 2025 with the analysis and publication of the most pertinent findings.

Other than malaria, the study will also assess the protective efficacy of a novel design house against two major childhood diseases – respiratory tract infections and diarrhea diseases – compared to those living in traditional homes.

“This trial provides an opportunity to collect high-grade evidence for the benefits of a range of housing interventions. The trial comes at a unique moment of what could be the onset of an intense population growth phase on the African continent,” the scientist urged.

To conclude their protocol, the scientists recommended that people should “make relatively small modifications in the design of houses to reduce the risk of mosquito entry, increase ventilation, improve air quality, and assure safe water supply and sanitation could result in long-term health benefits affecting the present and future generations.”

Ifakara researchers - Arnold Mmbando, Fredros Okumu and Ally Olotu – contributed to the publication and the study. The study is funded by the Hanako Foundation, Singapore. Other researchers who contributed to the study and the publication include; Salum Mshamu from CSK Research Solutions, Tanzania; Nicholas P. J. Day, Mavuto Mukaka and Lorenz von Seidlein from University of Oxford, UK.

Others are; Steven W. Lindsay from Durham University, UK; Judith Meta and Christopher Pell from University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; John Bradley from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK; Thomas Chevalier Bøjstrup and Jakob Knudsen from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Denmark; Nicholas P. J. Day, Mavuto Mukaka and Lorenz von Seidlein from Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), Thailand; and Jacqueline Deen from the University of Philippines.