As malaria declines in many African countries there is a growing realization that new interventions need to be added to the front-line vector control tools of long-lasting impregnated nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) that target adult mosquitoes indoors. Larval source management (LSM) provides the dual benefits of not only reducing numbers of house-entering mosquitoes, but, importantly, also those that bite outdoors. Large-scale LSM was a highly effective method of malaria control in the first half of the twentieth century, but was largely disbanded in favour of IRS with DDT. Today LSM continues to be used in large-scale mosquito abatement programmes in North America and Europe, but has only recently been tested in a few trials of malaria control in contemporary Africa. The results from these trials show that hand-application of larvicides can reduce transmission by 70-90% in settings where mosquito larval habitats are defined but is largely ineffectual where habitats are so extensive that not all of them can be covered on foot, such as areas that experience substantial flooding. Importantly recent evidence shows that LSM can be an effective method of malaria control, especially when combined with LLINs. Nevertheless, there are a number of misconceptions or even myths that hamper the advocacy for LSM by leading international institutions and the uptake of LSM by Malaria Control Programmes. Many argue that LSM is not feasible in Africa due to the high number of small and temporary larval habitats for Anopheles gambiae that are difficult to find and treat promptly. Reference is often made to the Ross-Macdonald model to reinforce the view that larval control is ineffective. This paper challenges the notion that LSM cannot be successfully used for malaria control in African transmission settings by highlighting historical and recent successes, discussing its potential in an integrated vector management approach working towards malaria elimination and critically reviewing the most common arguments that are used against the adoption of LSM.
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