According to a study, killing mosquitoes in their water-borne larval stage of development can effectively control malaria in urban areas.
Governments and NGOs worldwide are making a concerted effort to tackle malaria and a number of interventions exist to control its spread, including the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), sprays and repellents.
However, most interventions target adult mosquitoes, which can carry the parasite.
The research team led by Ms Khadija Kannady from the Dar es Salaam City Council, Tanzania, suggests that using larvicides to kill mosquito larvae, along with existing malaria interventions, have been found to have a dramatic effect in reducing malaria risk.
"Malaria control programs have traditionally focused on rural areas, where the disease is more prevalent," said Dr. Gerry Killeen, co-researcher of the study from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who is based at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania.
"However, it's becoming clear that malaria also poses a problem in towns or cities. It is likely that malaria is easier to control and even eliminate in these areas," he added.
The researchers found that the intervention program achieved a 72pct reduction in the prevalence of malaria infection among young children.
The dramatic reduction also proved to be highly cost-effective as the annual cost was less than 1 dollar per person protected, compared to 2 dollars per year of use of an ITN.
"There is no evidence that using larvicide is a substitute for the current front-line interventions," said lead author Dr. Yvonne Geissbuhler from the Swiss Tropical Institute, Switzerland.
"ITNs and indoor residual spraying are, and should remain, the highest priority, but using larvicide may offer a supplementary means to control or even eliminate malaria," Geissbuhler added.
The study appears in the open access journal PLoS One.