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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Simulation of malaria epidemiology and control in the highlands of western Kenya

Erin M Stuckey12*, Jennifer C Stevenson34, Mary K Cooke3, Chrispin Owaga4, Elizabeth Marube4, George Oando4, Diggory Hardy12, Chris Drakeley3, Thomas A Smith12, Jonathan Cox3 and Nakul Chitnis12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Socinstrasse 57, Postfach, Basel, CH-4002, Switzerland

2 University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

3 Faculty of Infectious & Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel St WC1E 7HT, London, UK

4 Centre for Global Health Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kisumu, Kenya

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Malaria Journal 2012, 11:357  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-357

Published: 29 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Models of Plasmodium falciparum malaria epidemiology that provide realistic quantitative predictions of likely epidemiological outcomes of existing vector control strategies have the potential to assist in planning for the control and elimination of malaria. This work investigates the applicability of mathematical modelling of malaria transmission dynamics in Rachuonyo South, a district with low, unstable transmission in the highlands of western Kenya.

Methods

Individual-based stochastic simulation models of malaria in humans and a deterministic model of malaria in mosquitoes as part of the OpenMalaria platform were parameterized to create a scenario for the study area based on data from ongoing field studies and available literature. The scenario was simulated for a period of two years with a population of 10,000 individuals and validated against malaria survey data from Rachuonyo South. Simulations were repeated with multiple random seeds and an ensemble of 14 model variants to address stochasticity and model uncertainty. A one-dimensional sensitivity analysis was conducted to address parameter uncertainty.

Results

The scenario was able to reproduce the seasonal pattern of the entomological inoculation rate (EIR) and patent infections observed in an all-age cohort of individuals sampled monthly for one year. Using an EIR estimated from serology to parameterize the scenario resulted in a closer fit to parasite prevalence than an EIR estimated using entomological methods. The scenario parameterization was most sensitive to changes in the timing and effectiveness of indoor residual spraying (IRS) and the method used to detect P. falciparum in humans. It was less sensitive than expected to changes in vector biting behaviour and climatic patterns.

Conclusions

The OpenMalaria model of P. falciparum transmission can be used to simulate the impact of different combinations of current and potential control interventions to help plan malaria control in this low transmission setting. In this setting and for these scenarios, results were highly sensitive to transmission, vector exophagy, exophily and susceptibility to IRS, and the detection method used for surveillance. The level of accuracy of the results will thus depend upon the precision of estimates for each. New methods for analysing and evaluating uncertainty in simulation results will enhance the usefulness of simulations for malaria control decision-making. Improved measurement tools and increased primary data collection will enhance model parameterization and epidemiological monitoring. Further research is needed on the relationship between malaria indices to identify the best way to quantify transmission in low transmission settings. Measuring EIR through mosquito collection may not be the optimal way to estimate transmission intensity in areas with low, unstable transmission.

Keywords:
Simulation; Kenya; EIR; Mathematical Modelling; Sensitivity analysis; Malaria; OpenMalaria