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Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 58  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 306-310

Mobile app based pictorial identification key for Indian anophelines

1 ICMR-National Institute of Malaria Research, New Delhi, India
2 Kumaun University, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India

Date of Submission21-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance04-Jun-2021
Date of Web Publication25-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Ms. Rekha Saxena
Scientist-F, ICMR-NIMR, Sector-8, Dwarka, New Delhi – 110077
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-9062.325634

Rights and Permissions

Background & objectives: Malaria control strategies for a particular area largely depends on the correct identification of the mosquito species prevalent in that area. This study aimed to develop an android mobile app named ‘Pictorial Indian anophelines key’, which can be used to identify the 58 species of Indian female adult anophelines based on morphological characteristics.
Methods: The pre-requisite to use this app requires a minimum basic knowledge of mosquito morphological characteristics and features. The user needs to view the collected mosquito under a dissecting binocular microscope and has to select the observations on the app presented in the form of labelled picture format. The app uses a divide and conquer algorithm which narrows the selection from genus level to final identification of species.
Results: The app is user-friendly, quick and it accurately identifies the mosquito species in a maximum of six consecutive clicks. The result displays a complete image of identified mosquito along with its quick identification features. It can be used for both subgenus Cellia and Anopheles.
Interpretation & conclusion: This pictorial key-based mobile app could be helpful for entomologists, malariologists, researchers, public health workers as well as students in the quick and correct identification of anopheline mosquitoes prevalent in India which in turn could be helpful in devising appropriate approaches towards malaria control and prevention. The app can be modified as per future requirements.

Keywords: Mobile App; Anophelines; Android; Malaria

How to cite this article:
Gupta SK, Nagpal B N, Singh H, Vikram K, Nayak A, Chalga M S, Srivastava A, Joshi M C, Saxena R. Mobile app based pictorial identification key for Indian anophelines. J Vector Borne Dis 2021;58:306-10

How to cite this URL:
Gupta SK, Nagpal B N, Singh H, Vikram K, Nayak A, Chalga M S, Srivastava A, Joshi M C, Saxena R. Mobile app based pictorial identification key for Indian anophelines. J Vector Borne Dis [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 19];58:306-10. Available from: https://www.jvbd.org/text.asp?2021/58/4/306/325634

  Introduction Top

Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest creatures on earth that transmit seven major diseases to humans, viz. malaria, dengue, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever. Malaria, among these, is a potential life-threatening disease caused by infection of Plasmodium protozoa. According to the World malaria report[1] 2018, an estimated 219 million cases of malaria were reported in 2017, which is an increase of about 2 million cases over 2016. Along with 15 countries in sub- Saharan Africa, India carries almost 80% of the global malaria burden[1]; and alone accounts for 89% malaria cases in South-East Asia. In 2017, India reported 0.84 million malaria cases, including 194 deaths, whereas, in 2018 (till October), 0.34 million malaria cases with 41 deaths were reported[2].

Malaria is transmitted among humans through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito. About 3500 species of anophelines are found in different parts of the world[3] out of which 58 species have been reported from India[4],[5]. Since malaria is a local and focal disease, malaria control strategies for a particular area depends on the correct identification of the mosquito species in that area. Several identification keys were developed in the form of ‘wall chart’ by the Central Malaria Bureau, Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) in 1912 to computer-based identification key of Indian anophelines during 1995, which runs on desk/laptop computers[6],[7].

Mobile phones came into existence in India in 1995 and at the end of 2018, there were 1197.87 million total telephone subscribers, out of which 1176 million connections were wireless or mobile[8]. Smartphones are a class of mobile phones having stronger hardware capabilities and multimedia functionality (camera, music, video, and gaming), alongside the core phone functions such as voice calls and text messaging. These are typically touch-enabled, hand-sized, and act as a multi-purpose mobile computing device that provides users the liberty to work wherever and whenever they need to, along with real-time access to workplace facilities, consequently saving time, efforts and resources.

A mobile App, short-form of the term “software application” is a computer program designed to run on mobile devices, mainly smartphones. The apps were originally envisioned for productivity assistance like email, calculator, calendar, and contact databases, but soon they penetrated into other areas such as mobile gaming, factory automation, GPS and location-based services, online ordering, bill payments, and now millions of mobile apps are available.

The need for better communication and information resources led to rapid growth in the development of apps in the field of healthcare. But these apps are restricted mainly to information management, treatment, health record access and maintenance, communication and consultation, patient monitoring, education and training[9]. Not many apps are available in the field of vector-borne diseases. Mobile apps like “India Fights Dengue” sensitizes the community about techniques to prevent dengue. “Fight the Bite” app is designed for taking the community feedback for control of vector-borne diseases. There is apparently no app available for the identification of vectors responsible for transmission of malaria and other such diseases. Hence, a mobile app named ‘Pictorial Indian Anopheline Key’ was developed for the identification of female adults of 58 species of Indian anophelines based on morphological characters. The app can be used for both subgenus Cellia and Anopheles.

  Material & Methods Top

Software used for app development

Android Studio version 3.3, Google’s official Integrated Development Environment freeware software, was used for developing the present mobile app. It provides tools for building apps on every type of android device and consolidates basic tools required to write and test the app/software (https://developer.android.com/ studio/ index.html). All the back-end functions and programming was based on Java, whereas the front-end (user-interface) was implemented using XML (Extensible Markup Language).

Target operating system

The target operating system for this mobile app is android that is designed for use on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and other devices. Android is the most popular mobile operating system in terms of sales and market share (90.68%), followed by KaiOS (4.34%) and iOS (2.81%), created and developed by Apple Inc[10],[11]. The minimum SDK version used for the app was API 19, i.e. Android 4.4 version and above as cumulative distribution 95.3% of users have more than Android version 4.4 [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Android platform version with API level and cumulative distribution

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Source of database and images

The database and pictures for the key were adapted from the book ‘Pictorial identification key for Indian anophelines’ by Nagpal et al[12] 2005.

How the app works

The pre-requisite to use this app is a minimum basic knowledge of mosquito morphological characteristics and features. The app opens by displaying a full morphological image of the female Anopheles mosquito labelled with identification characters followed by detailed body parts, i.e. head, wings, legs and abdomen.

To identify the Anopheles mosquitoes, the user has to view the collected mosquito under dissecting binocular microscope or hand lens (x25) and look for elongated palpi (two in number). If they are slender and equal to proboscis in length, the species can be categorised as female Anopheles, and if they are club-shaped and have bushy antennae (longer dense setae/flagellomeres) they can be categorised as male [Figure 2]. The app works only for female Anopheline mosquitoes.
Figure 2: Flow chart for identification of Genus, Subgenus and Group

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To identify subgenus, the user should see the number of pale spots on the costa, subcosta and vein 1 (R1) in the wings. The user has to opt for one option among the three available options, i.e. total number of pale spots > = 4, the total number of pale spots < 4 or no spots (completely dark) to categorize subgenus Cellia (Group A, 34 species), subgenus Anopheles (Group B, 17 species) or subgenus Anopheles (Group C, 7 species), respectively [Figure 2]. Apart from Cellia, the subgenus Anopheles is bifurcated in two groups i.e. group B and C to ease the user in identification based on pale spots on the costa, subcosta and vein 1 (R2).

All options are displayed pictorially, and the user has to click the uploaded pictures one after the other and the screen automatically changes to the next morphological character after one character is selected/clicked which narrows down the selection till species is identified. Morphological characters of the mosquitoes are shown through labelled images, and before selecting an option, a list of possible species is shown on the top of the screen. Results are displayed with full image of the identified mosquito along with its quick identification features. Based on the differences in morphology characters, identification process of species under Group A is shown in [Figure 3] a & [Figure 3]b whereas for Group B and Group C, they are shown in [Figure 4] & [Figure 5] respectively.
Figure 3:

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Figure 4: Flow chart for identification of Subgenus Anopheles (Group B) mosquitoes

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Figure 5: Flow chart for identification of Subgenus Anopheles (Group C) mosquitoes

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Testing of the app

Alfa (α) testing of the app was done using Nexus 5.5 with API level 26, i.e. Marshmallow emulator which is a virtual device used to test an app to know whether it can be installed and run properly on a real device. The app was also tested on various real android-based smartphones for Beta (β)- testing and found successful.

The app was shared with 40 different users, including research scholars, field workers and project officers (entomologist), and others, along with a feedback form. A total of 21 (52%) respondents used it and returned the feedback form. The respondents identified 7 different species i.e. An culicifacies, An. fluviatilis, An. stephensi, An. annularis, An. subpictus, An. minimus, and An. barbirostris using the app and the confirmation was done with the help of standard identification keys. The app was 100% consistent with standard identification keys. Eighty-eight percent of the respondents considered the app easy to use and 75% indicated to use it again in the future. The app has been well accepted, and it was suggested that similar apps are required to be developed for identifying the other two genera, i.e. Aedes and Culex.


Smartphones are usually lightweight, can fit in a purse or pocket, and be taken anywhere; therefore, they are very useful for field application. The app is accessible 24x7 after download and could be a good learning tool as users can view the morphological characters and identification features of anophelines mosquitoes anytime and anywhere as per their convenience. No internet connectivity is needed to access the app and contents. Further, they can share and discuss the keys more effortlessly.

Target Audience

This pictorial key-based mobile app is very easy to use, learn and understand, and can be useful to beginners for the quick and correct identification of anopheline mosquitoes on the basis of morphological characters. The app can be useful for entomologists, malariologists, researchers, public health workers, and students since it provides all the necessary morphological characters of mosquitoes required for their identification in the form of labelled pictures.

  Results and Discussion Top

To keep track of mosquito species involved in disease transmission, it is important to accurately identify the species[13]. Morphological taxonomic keys are essential tools in malaria vector surveillance and control as they help field workers to easily and accurately identify anopheline species in field conditions[14].

After the ‘wall chart’ identification key in 1912, several keys were published like Sinton and Covell (wall chart; 1916), Strickland and Chowdhury[15] (1927), Christophers et al[16] (1931), Christophers[17] (1933), Puri[18] (1954), Wattal and Kalra[19] (1961), Das et al[20] (1990), Nagpal and Shar- ma[21] (1995). One main problem of these couplet keys is that for each character the user has to jump over different pages and at any point slight oversight may result in mis- identification of the species.

This app is easy to use, quick and accurately identifies the species and at the most 6, 5 and 4 consecutive clicks are required to identify Group A, B and C species, respectively. After installation, the app works offline and does not require an internet connection. The app is completely secure as it does not require user’s private data to run. The app can be modified easily as per future needs.

The App is currently freely available with the authors and can be obtained by sending email and mobile number to [email protected], [email protected] com.

Conflict of interest: None

  References Top

World Malaria Report 2018. WHO 2018.  Back to cited text no. 1
Malaria: Magnitude of the Problem. National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Delhi. (Accessed on September 17th, 2019)  Back to cited text no. 2
Mosquito Malaria Vectors. Malaria Atlas Project© 2019 MAP. https://map.ox.ac.uk/mosquito-malaria-vectors/ (Accessed on September 18, 2019)  Back to cited text no. 3
Rao TR. The Anophelines of India. 2nd ed. Malaria Research Centre, Indian Council of Medical Research, 1984.  Back to cited text no. 4
Nagpal BN, Sharma VP. Indian Anophelines. New Delhi: Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 1995.  Back to cited text no. 5
Srivastava A, Saxena R, Nagpal BN, Sharma VP. Matrix Based Approach for identification of Indian Anophelines. Indian Journal of Mariology 1992; 29: 185-191.  Back to cited text no. 6
Nagpal BN, Srivastava A, Sharma VP, Saxena R, Jacob R. Computer-based identification of Indian anophelines (CIIA) (Diptera: Culicidae). Mosquito Systematics 1995: 27(2): 153-155.  Back to cited text no. 7
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Press Release No. 13/2019 (Accessed on September 18th, 2018)  Back to cited text no. 8
Ventola CL. Mobile devices and apps for health care professionals: uses and benefits. P T 2014; 39(5): 356-364.  Back to cited text no. 9
Jamdaade K, Khairmode A, Kamble S. Comparative study between Android & iOS. IJCTER e-ISSN2016; 2(6): 495-501.  Back to cited text no. 10
Mobile Operating System Market Share in India - August 2019. Statcounter GlobalStats http://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share/mobile/india (Accessed on September 18th, 2019)  Back to cited text no. 11
Nagpal BN, Aruna Srivastava, Saxena R, Ansari MA, Dash AP, Das SC. Pictorial identification key for Indian Anophelines. 2005 Malaria Research Centre (ICMR)  Back to cited text no. 12
Clinton Haarlem, Rutger Vos. Inspecting Morphological Features of Mosquito Wings for Identification with Image Recognition Tools. bioRxiv 410449  Back to cited text no. 13
Gunathilaka N, Fernando T, Hapugoda M, Abeyewickreme W, Wickremasinghe R. Revised morphological identification key to the larval anopheline (Diptera: Culicidae) of Sri Lanka. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed 2014; 4(Suppl 1): S222-S227.  Back to cited text no. 14
Strickland C., Chowdhury KL. An illustrated key to distribution of Anopheline larvae of India, Ceylon and Malaya. Tracker Spink & Co. 1927: Calcutta 67 pp  Back to cited text no. 15
Christophers SR, Sinton JA, Covell G. Synoptic table for the identification of the Anopheline mosquitoes of India. Health Bull 1931: Vol 10, Govt. of India, Calcutta.  Back to cited text no. 16
Christophers SR. The fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma, 1933. Diptera Vol. 4 Family Culicidae, Tribe Anopheline, Taylor and Francis, London pp.371.  Back to cited text no. 17
Puri IM. Synoptic table for the identification of Anopheline mosquitoes of India. Health Bulletin 1954: Vol 10, GOI, Calcutta.  Back to cited text no. 18
Wattal BL, Kalra NL. Regionwise pictorial keys to the female Indian Anopheles. Bull. Nat. Soc. Mal. Mosq. Dis 1961: 9: 85-138.  Back to cited text no. 19
Das BP, Rajagopal R and Akiyama J. Pictorial key to the species of Indian anopheline mosquitoes. Association for the Advancement of Zoology ; 2(3): 131-162  Back to cited text no. 20
Nagpal BN, Sharma VP. Indian Anophelines, 1995 Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. India pp. 416.  Back to cited text no. 21


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]


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