For countries like Peru, the economic costs, the resources, and the logistics required for mass spraying campaigns against malaria are very limited. There would be a clear advantage for any program that relied on self-directed community action. At the same time there is increasing interest on the part of public health officials for using a natural bacterial insecticide (Bti) to control malaria. It is environmentally safe and deadly only to target organisms such as mosquito and black fly larvae. However, there are logistical problems with its distribution, mainly because of its biological nature (storage, production, shelf life, etc).
A research team from the Alexander von Humboldt Tropical Medicine Institute in Lima, Peru, has developed an innovative and low cost approach to making Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti) available cheaply in communities where malaria is endemic. The technology focused on using locally available coconuts to grow the biological insecticide. Research demonstrated that coconut water was a good culture medium for Bti. The research team demonstrated that whole coconuts could be inoculated directly with Bti and that laboratory conditions were not necessary. This opened the door to implementing the strategy in the field. Research has shown that two or three inoculated coconuts produce enough Bti to maintain a small, shallow pond free of mosquito larvae for 45 days. A prototype kit for inoculating coconuts was devised. The success of the first phase of this project has raised the interest of Peru's Ministry of Health. The Ministry is looking at using this technology within the national primary health care system.