South Africa has made significant progress in reducing its malaria burden and is now striving towards elimination within its borders. However, current efforts have not completely eliminated the transmission of the disease, necessitating a reflection on current control strategies, especially vector control interventions.


It has become apparent that indoor residual spraying (IRS) using DDT and pyrethroid insecticides as a standalone vector control tool, while it may be sufficient for effective control of the disease, is unlikely to achieve malaria elimination without supplementation. IRS mainly targets indoor feeding and resting mosquitoes, and is not effective against vectors that feed and rest outdoors, such as Anopheles arabiensis. This species has recently been implicated as a major contributor to outdoor transmission in South Africa's malaria-affected provinces.


Given the lack of alternative vector control intervention tools, the sterile insect technique (SIT) was identified as a potential means of addressing this challenge, and a consortium of collaborating parties assisted by the International Atomic Energy Agency developed a multi-year SIT project for South Africa.


The project, known as the Sterile Insect Technique for Malaria Mosquitoes in a South African Setting, is currently coordinated and operated under the auspices of the Nuclear Technologies in Medicine and the Biosciences Initiative (NTeMBI), a platform of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).


The long-term goal of the project is to establish an industrial scale mass-rearing facility capable of producing sterile male mosquitoes in sufficient numbers to support large-scale, area-wide SIT field programmes in malaria-affected areas in the country and the region.


This is a critical initiative, as it will increase the number of available vector control interventions, while reducing dependency on the use of insecticides, as the country moves towards malaria elimination. The DST is providing funding support for a small-scale field demonstration of SIT aimed at confirming the technical feasibility of the technology.


The SIT programme aims to provide an insecticide-free alternative for tackling an epidemic that has plagued the continent for decades. The programme complements related research initiatives in the country, such as the anti-malaria drug discovery programmes of the South African Medical Research Council and the University of Cape Town, among others.


Malaria transmission in South Africa is relatively low, and is limited to the low-altitude border regions within the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. However, despite a concerted effort to eliminate the disease in these provinces, transmission has remained steady over the past decade at approximately 11 000 cases per year, translating to a case incidence of less than one per 1 000 of the population. The country is also still prone to epidemics, such as that experienced during the 1999/2000 season, during which approximately 65 000 cases were recorded.


The media are invited to join the Department for two phases of the testing:

  • The harvesting of pupae for adult emergence at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg.
  • The release and recapture of marked males at the SIT test site in Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal.


The media are invited as follows:


Date:       16 October 2018

Venue:     National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg


Date:       18 October 2018

Venue:     SIT test site, Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal


For RSVP and enquiries, please contact Zama Mthethwa at 082 808 3956 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Thabang Setlhare at 072 659 9690 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Issued by the Department of Science and Technology