• The effect of community-driven larval source management and house improvement on malaria transmission when added to the standard malaria control strategies in Malawi: a cluster-randomized controlled trial

      McCann, Robert S; Kabaghe, Alinune N; Moraga, Paula; Gowelo, Steven; Mburu, Monicah M; Tizifa, Tinashe; Chipeta, Michael G; Nkhono, William; Di Pasquale, Aurelio; Maire, Nicolas; et al. (Springer Nature, 2021-05-22)
      Background: Current standard interventions are not universally sufficient for malaria elimination. The effects of community-based house improvement (HI) and larval source management (LSM) as supplementary interventions to the Malawi National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) interventions were assessed in the context of an intensive community engagement programme. Methods: The study was a two-by-two factorial, cluster-randomized controlled trial in Malawi. Village clusters were randomly assigned to four arms: a control arm; HI; LSM; and HI + LSM. Malawi NMCP interventions and community engagement were used in all arms. Household-level, cross-sectional surveys were conducted on a rolling, 2-monthly basis to measure parasitological and entomological outcomes over 3 years, beginning with one baseline year. The primary outcome was the entomological inoculation rate (EIR). Secondary outcomes included mosquito density, Plasmodium falciparum prevalence, and haemoglobin levels. All outcomes were assessed based on intention to treat, and comparisons between trial arms were conducted at both cluster and household level. Results: Eighteen clusters derived from 53 villages with 4558 households and 20,013 people were randomly assigned to the four trial arms. The mean nightly EIR fell from 0.010 infectious bites per person (95% CI 0.006-0.015) in the baseline year to 0.001 (0.000, 0.003) in the last year of the trial. Over the full trial period, the EIR did not differ between the four trial arms (p = 0.33). Similar results were observed for the other outcomes: mosquito density and P. falciparum prevalence decreased over 3 years of sampling, while haemoglobin levels increased; and there were minimal differences between the trial arms during the trial period. Conclusions: In the context of high insecticide-treated bed net use, neither community-based HI, LSM, nor HI + LSM contributed to further reductions in malaria transmission or prevalence beyond the reductions observed over two years across all four trial arms. This was the first trial, as far as the authors are aware, to test the potential complementary impact of LSM and/or HI beyond levels achieved by standard interventions. The unexpectedly low EIR values following intervention implementation indicated a promising reduction in malaria transmission for the area, but also limited the usefulness of this outcome for measuring differences in malaria transmission among the trial arms. Trial registration PACTR, PACTR201604001501493, Registered 3 March 2016, https://pactr.samrc.ac.za/ .
    • Hotspots and super-spreaders: Modelling fine-scale malaria parasite transmission using mosquito flight behaviour.

      Sedda, Luigi; McCann, Robert S; Kabaghe, Alinune N; Gowelo, Steven; Mburu, Monicah M; Tizifa, Tinashe A; Chipeta, Michael G; van den Berg, Henk; Takken, Willem; van Vugt, Michèle; et al. (Public Library of Science, 2022-07-06)
      Malaria hotspots have been the focus of public health managers for several years due to the potential elimination gains that can be obtained from targeting them. The identification of hotspots must be accompanied by the description of the overall network of stable and unstable hotspots of malaria, especially in medium and low transmission settings where malaria elimination is targeted. Targeting hotspots with malaria control interventions has, so far, not produced expected benefits. In this work we have employed a mechanistic-stochastic algorithm to identify clusters of super-spreader houses and their related stable hotspots by accounting for mosquito flight capabilities and the spatial configuration of malaria infections at the house level. Our results show that the number of super-spreading houses and hotspots is dependent on the spatial configuration of the villages. In addition, super-spreaders are also associated to house characteristics such as livestock and family composition. We found that most of the transmission is associated with winds between 6pm and 10pm although later hours are also important. Mixed mosquito flight (downwind and upwind both with random components) were the most likely movements causing the spread of malaria in two out of the three study areas. Finally, our algorithm (named MALSWOTS) provided an estimate of the speed of malaria infection progression from house to house which was around 200-400 meters per day, a figure coherent with mark-release-recapture studies of Anopheles dispersion. Cross validation using an out-of-sample procedure showed accurate identification of hotspots. Our findings provide a significant contribution towards the identification and development of optimal tools for efficient and effective spatio-temporal targeted malaria interventions over potential hotspot areas.
    • Identifying transmission patterns through parasite prevalence and entomological inoculation rate

      Amoah, Benjamin; McCann, Robert S; Kabaghe, Alinune N; Mburu, Monicah; Chipeta, Michael G; Moraga, Paula; Gowelo, Steven; Tizifa, Tinashe; van den Berg, Henk; Mzilahowa, Themba; et al. (eLife Sciences Publications, 2021-10-21)
      Background: Monitoring malaria transmission is a critical component of efforts to achieve targets for elimination and eradication. Two commonly monitored metrics of transmission intensity are parasite prevalence (PR) and the entomological inoculation rate (EIR). Comparing the spatial and temporal variations in the PR and EIR of a given geographical region and modelling the relationship between the two metrics may provide a fuller picture of the malaria epidemiology of the region to inform control activities. Methods: Using geostatistical methods, we compare the spatial and temporal patterns of Plasmodium falciparum EIR and PR using data collected over 38 months in a rural area of Malawi. We then quantify the relationship between EIR and PR by using empirical and mechanistic statistical models. Results: Hotspots identified through the EIR and PR partly overlapped during high transmission seasons but not during low transmission seasons. The estimated relationship showed a 1-month delayed effect of EIR on PR such that at lower levels of EIR, increases in EIR are associated with rapid rise in PR, whereas at higher levels of EIR, changes in EIR do not translate into notable changes in PR. Conclusions: Our study emphasises the need for integrated malaria control strategies that combine vector and human host managements monitored by both entomological and parasitaemia indices.
    • Incidence of clinical malaria, acute respiratory illness, and diarrhoea in children in southern Malawi: a prospective cohort study.

      Tizifa, Tinashe A; Kabaghe, Alinune N; McCann, Robert S; Nkhono, William; Mtengula, Spencer; Takken, Willem; Phiri, Kamija S; van Vugt, Michele (Springer Nature, 2021-12-20)
      Background: Malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and diarrhoea are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among children under 5 years old. Estimates of the malaria incidence are available from a previous study conducted in southern Malawi in the absence of community-led malaria control strategies; however, the incidence of the other diseases is lacking, owing to understudying and competing disease priorities. Extensive malaria control measures through a community participation strategy were implemented in Chikwawa, southern Malawi from May 2016 to reduce parasite prevalence and incidence. This study assessed the incidence of clinical malaria, ARIs and acute diarrhoea among under-five children in a rural community involved in malaria control through community participation. Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted from September 2017 to May 2019 in Chikwawa district, southern Malawi. Children aged 6–48 months were recruited from a series of repeated cross-sectional household surveys. Recruited children were followed up two-monthly for 1 year to record details of any clinic visits to designated health facilities. Incidence of clinical malaria, ARIs and diarrhoea per child-years at risk was estimated, compared between age groups, area of residence and time. Results: A total of 274 out of 281 children recruited children had complete results and contributed 235.7 child-years. Malaria incidence was 0.5 (95% CI (0.4, 0.5)) cases per child-years at risk, (0.04 in 6.0–11.9 month-olds, 0.5 in 12.0–23.9 month-olds, 0.6 in 24.0–59.9 month-olds). Incidences of ARIs and diarrhoea were 0.3 (95% CI (0.2, 0.3)), (0.1 in 6.0–11.9 month-olds, 0.4 in 12.0–23.9 month-olds, 0.3 in 24.0–59.9 month-olds), and 0.2 (95% CI (0.2, 0.3)), (0.1 in 6.0–11.9 month-olds, 0.3 in 12.0–23.9 month-olds, 0.2 in 24.0–59.9 month-olds) cases per child-years at risk, respectively. There were temporal variations of malaria and ARI incidence and an overall decrease over time. Conclusion: In comparison to previous studies, there was a lower incidence of clinical malaria in Chikwawa. The incidence of ARIs and diarrhoea were also low and decreased over time. The results are promising because they highlight the importance of community participation and the integration of malaria prevention strategies in contributing to disease burden reduction. © 2021, The Author(s).