Utah scientists work in Africa to reduce malaria

Jun 21, 2023, 6:46 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2023, 10:26 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah scientists are working in Mali to help reduce malaria. It’s the first time Utah’s mosquito abatement techniques are being put into practice there.

Jason Hardman and Greg White with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District have been in Mali for more than a week.

“People see Greg and I, and they always take a second look,” Hardman said. “But they’re always waving and smiling, and it’s been a wonderful experience.”

Greg White and Jason Hardman

Greg White and Jason Hardman (Salt Lake City Abatement District)

Three years ago, a Utah nonprofit called The Ouelessebougou Alliance reached out to scientists with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District to help reduce malaria in West Africa.

Hardman and White volunteered and the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District sent two trucks for spraying pesticides.

Taking Salt Lake City’s abatement model for killing mosquitoes, Hardman and White have been teaching villagers how to study the mosquito species and then get rid of them.

“The people here are learning very, very fast,” Hardman said.

Siriman, a 28-year-old studying mosquitoes at the University of Bamako, met up with White and Hardman to learn how to collect larvae for lab work.

“I am excited to do it,” Siriman said.

White said Siriman has taught them about the ways they study mosquitos in Africa.

Now, they’re teaching Siriman what they do in Salt Lake City, including lab work with the mosquito larvae samples, knowing what pesticides to mix and spray, as well as setting out traps.

As of Tuesday, White and Hardman have set out 40 mosquito traps in eight different villages.

“Every village we go to, we always have to meet with the Elders first,” White said. “It’s extremely important to them.”

One village they visited was mourning after another kid died of malaria the night before White and Hardman arrived.

“Children die all the time from malaria here,” Hardman said. “For the village it was sad, but it was nothing that they haven’t experienced and nothing that they won’t experience in the future.”

The World Health Organization reports nearly 12 million people have died from malaria since 2000. Pregnant women and children are most vulnerable – all the more reason for Hardman and White’s work.

“People here need help, they need our help,” Hardman said.

The two fly home on Friday. Once they’re back, they’re going to collaborate with students at the University of Bamako, with plans to call every other week and discuss their findings from the larvae samples.

White said the word has spread to other countries in Africa, like Ethiopia, where villagers want to implement the same abatement methods.

“It’s great to be around people who are so excited for what you’re doing,” White said.

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Utah scientists work in Africa to reduce malaria