Karen Molina Gómez 1 , M. Alejandra Caicedo 1 , Alexandra Gaitán 1 , Manuela Herrera-Varela 1 , María Isabel Arce 1 , Andrés F. Vallejo 1 , Julio Padilla 2 , Pablo Chaparro 3 , M. Andreína Pacheco 4 , Ananias A. Escalante 4 , Myriam Arevalo-Herrera 5 , 6 , Sócrates Herrera 5 , *
17 July 2017
Reported urban malaria cases are increasing in Latin America, however, evidence of such trend remains insufficient. Here, we propose an integrated approach that allows characterizing malaria transmission at the rural-to-urban interface by combining epidemiological, entomological, and parasite genotyping methods.
A descriptive study that combines active (ACD), passive (PCD), and reactive (RCD) case detection was performed in urban and peri-urban neighborhoods of Quibdó, Colombia. Heads of households were interviewed and epidemiological surveys were conducted to assess malaria prevalence and identify potential risk factors. Sixteen primary cases, eight by ACD and eight by PCD were recruited for RCD. Using the RCD strategy, prevalence of 1% by microscopy (6/604) and 9% by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) (52/604) were found. A total of 73 houses and 289 volunteers were screened leading to 41 secondary cases, all of them in peri-urban settings (14% prevalence). Most secondary cases were genetically distinct from primary cases indicating that there were independent occurrences. Plasmodium vivax was the predominant species (76.3%, 71/93), most of them being asymptomatic (46/71). Urban and peri-urban neighborhoods had significant sociodemographic differences. Twenty-four potential breeding sites were identified, all in peri-urban areas. The predominant vectors for 1,305 adults were Anopheles nuneztovari (56,2%) and An. Darlingi (42,5%). One An. nuneztovari specimen was confirmed naturally infected with P. falciparum by ELISA.
This study found no evidence supporting the existence of urban malaria transmission in Quibdó. RCD strategy was more efficient for identifying malaria cases than ACD alone in areas where malaria transmission is variable and unstable. Incorporating parasite genotyping allows discovering hidden patterns of malaria transmission that cannot be detected otherwise. We propose to use the term “focal case” for those primary cases that lead to discovery of secondary but genetically unrelated malaria cases indicating undetected malaria transmission.
Malaria is a disease of rural areas in developing countries. Although a rise in urban malaria cases has been noted during the last decade, this trend could be an artifact due to lack of solid data. In order to better understand “urban” and “peri-urban” malaria, we developed a rigorous and systematic methodology that allows characterizing malaria risk in such settings. Our approach is based on cross-sectional studies using active and reactive case detection strategies, genotyping of parasite isolates in order to better understand transmission patterns, and the local assessment of the entomological factors that allow active transmission in urban and peri-urban neighborhoods. This approach was tested in Quibdó, Colombia. No evidence of malaria transmission in urban areas was found. However, we found solid evidence indicating transmission in peri-urban areas due to Plasmodium vivax (86%). This was supported by the identification of Anopheles mosquitoes and their breeding places. Our results show that reactive case detection is not only an effective strategy to identify cases in areas where transmission is variable and unstable, but also allows the detection of hidden transmission when combined with genotyping methods. Such patterns are undetected by traditional surveillance methods.