Artificial light may become a new weapon in the fight to control malaria

What is the News?

A study has demonstrated that artificial lights can be used as a weapon to fight against malaria.

What is the importance of Light?

Light regulates much of the timing of biological events like when birds breed, lions hunt – and humans’ sleep patterns. 

While species have been exposed to changes in climate cycles over the eons, the timing of day and night has remained relatively constant owing to the rotation of the earth. This means that all life on the planet has evolved with regular day-night cycles.

Melatonin hormone is a gene responsible for regulating the sleep-awake cycles. It is found in plants as well as animals.

However, rapid change in the natural sleep cycles has been observed on account of the increased use of artificial light. For instance, nearly 80% of the world’s people now live under artificially lit skies.

What role can Artificial Light play in the fight against malaria?

Artificial light can alter mosquito biology. For instance, the malaria-transmitting mosquito species “Anopheles is a nocturnal feeder.

Using artificial light, these mosquitoes can be tricked to behave as if it’s daytime.

For example, a short pulse of Light Emitting Diode (LED) light, is commonly used in homes as “downlights” or reading lamps. This can delay the onset of biting by hours in Anopheles. This can in turn reduce biting rates and malaria transfer. 

What are the challenges associated with this method to control malaria?

The issue is that it is still unclear how artificial lights might be used to lessen the risk of malaria infections.

Demonstration of the effects of artificial light in controlled laboratory settings is one thing, but rolling out their use as an effective vector control strategy is quite another.

Moreover, LED light can have negative impacts on human health like disrupting sleep.

Source: The post is based on the article “Artificial light may become a new weapon in the fight to control malaria” published in Down To Earth on 26th May 2022.

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