- An average of almost 1,900 people with malaria move to Britain each year
- France had an average of 2,169, while the US had the third highest at 1,511
- Cases originating from West Africa accounted for 56 per cent of them all
- Historical, economic, language and cultural ties all play a part, experts say
Britain and France suffer the highest number of malaria cases imported from other countries, new research has revealed.
An average of almost 1,900 people with malaria moved to Britain each year over the last decade, figures suggest.
While France had an average of 2,169 imported infections per year.
The US followed with the third highest rates at 1,511, followed by Italy, 637, and Germany, 401.
An average of almost 1,900 people with malaria moved to Britain each year over the last decade, researchers from the University of Southampton found
Researchers from the University of Southampton examined and mapped the movement of malaria from endemic countries.
They were tracked to around 40 countries which were defined as being malaria-free or non-endemic.
Experts said that infection movement was strongly skewed to a small number of ‘high-traffic’ routes.
Malaria cases originating from West Africa accounted for 56 per cent of all those detected in non-endemic countries, they found.
Lead researcher Professor Andrew Tatem said: ‘This is the first worldwide assessment of imported malaria cases in 20 years and mapping this data is hugely valuable in helping us understand how we can mitigate against the effects of the global movements of the disease.
‘Imported malaria can be expensive to treat, contribute to drug resistance, sometimes cause secondary local transmission and threaten the long-term goal of eradication.
The average annual number of imported malaria cases per year between 2005 and 2015 (red). Also visible, cases from endemic countries to non-endemic countries (blue)
The average annual number of malaria cases between 2005 and 2015 moving from endemic to non-endemic country pairs are mapped as flow lines. Only average annual flows of 50 plus cases are mapped, with 200 plus in red, 100–200 in pink, and 50–100 in yellow
‘This study forms part of wider efforts to understand patterns of human and malaria parasite movement to help guide elimination strategies.’
The research constructed and analysed a database of publically available nationally reported statistics on imported malaria covering more than 50,000 individual cases over 10 years.
The study showed 20 per cent of cases were from India, 13 per cent originated from East Africa and three per cent from Papua New Guinea.
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More than 40 per cent of the global population live in areas where there is a risk of contracting the disease.
Last year, 214 million people were infected with malaria and 438,000 died, according to World Health Organisation figures.
Despite the West Africa to France and the UK being the strongest imported malaria link, other high traffic routes existed.
India to the US recorded an average of 149 cases a year, while visitors from Pakistan were responsible for 69 cases each year in the UK.
Malaria is a serious tropical disease spread by mosquitoes. If it isn’t diagnosed and treated promptly, it can be fatal.
A single mosquito bite is all it takes for someone to become infected, NHS Choices say.
Professor Tatem said by mapping the network of malaria movements across continents they highlighted a number of factors that influenced imported strength.
Historical, economic, language and cultural ties all play a part – population movements with former colonies had particular influence.
These included Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya with the UK, and Mali, Niger and Chad with France.
Now the researchers hope to conduct further studies to examine which factors are the drivers behind the patterns of malaria spread between endemic and non-endemic countries.
The findings were published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.