Spatial clustering of patent and sub-patent malaria infections in northern Namibia: Implications for surveillance and response strategies for elimination.

Smith, JL; Auala, J; Tambo, M; Haindongo, E; Katokele, S; Uusiku, P; Gosling, R; Kleinschmidt, I; Mumbengegwi, D; Sturrock, HJW; (2017) Spatial clustering of patent and sub-patent malaria infections in northern Namibia: Implications for surveillance and response strategies for elimination. PloS one, 12 (8). e0180845. ISSN 1932-6203 DOI:

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Reactive case detection (RACD) around passively detected malaria cases is a strategy to identify and treat hotspots of malaria transmission. This study investigated the unproven assumption on which this approach is based, that in low transmission settings, infections cluster over small scales. A prospective case-control study was conducted between January 2013 and August 2014 in Ohangwena and Omusati regions in north central Namibia. Patients attending health facilities who tested positive by malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) (index cases) were traced back to their home. All occupants of index case households (n = 116 households) and surrounding households (n = 225) were screened for Plasmodium infection with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) and interviewed to identify risk factors. A comparison group of 286 randomly-selected control households was also screened, to compare infection levels of RACD and non-RACD households and their neighbours. Logistic regression was used to investigate spatial clustering of patent and sub-patent infections around index cases and to identify potential risk factors that would inform screening approaches and identify risk groups. Estimates of the impact of RACD on onward transmission to mosquitoes was made using previously published figures of infection rates. Prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum infection by LAMP was 3.4%, 1.4% and 0.4% in index-case households, neighbors of index case households and control households respectively; adjusted odds ratio 6.1 [95%CI 1.9-19.5] comparing case households versus control households. Using data from Engela, neighbors of cases had higher odds of infection [adjusted OR 5.0 95%CI 1.3-18.9] compared to control households. All infections identified by RDTs were afebrile and RDTs identified only a small proportion of infections in case (n = 7; 17%) and control (0%) neighborhoods. Based on published estimates of patent and sub-patent infectiousness, these results suggest that infections missed by RDTs during RACD would allow 50-71% of infections to mosquitoes to occur in this setting. Malaria infections cluster around passively detected cases. The majority of infections are asymptomatic and of densities below the limit of detection of current RDTs. RACD using standard RDTs are unlikely to detect enough malaria infections to dramatically reduce transmission. In low transmission settings such as Namibia more sensitive field diagnostics or forms of focal presumptive treatment should be tested as strategies to reduce malaria transmission.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Disease Control
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Research Centre: Malaria Centre
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PubMed ID: 28820883
Web of Science ID: 408010000001


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