Systematic non-compliance to chemotherapeutic treatment among a portion of the eligible population is thought to be a major obstacle to the elimination of helminth infections by mass drug administration (MDA). MDA for helminths is repeated at defined intervals such as yearly or every 2 years, as a consequence of the inability of the human host to develop fully protective immunity to reinfection. As such, how an individual complies to these repeated rounds of MDA can have a significant impact on parasite transmission. The importance of this factor is poorly understood at present. Few epidemiological studies have examined longitudinal trends in compliance in the many communities in areas of endemic helminth infection that are undergoing MDA. Reducing systematic non-compliance will obviously increase the number of individuals treated, but it may also alter the dynamics of parasite transmission.
Here we develop an individual-based stochastic model of helminth transmission and MDA treatment to investigate how different patterns of compliance influence the impact of MDA for two groups of helminths, the soil transmitted nematode infections and the schistosome parasites. We study the effect of several alternative treatment and compliance patterns on the dynamics of transmission.
We find that the impact of different compliance patterns, ranging from random treatment at each round of chemotherapy to systematic non-compliance by a proportion of the population, is very dependent on both transmission intensity in a defined setting and the type of infection that the treatment is targeted at. Systematic non-compliance has a greater impact on the potential for elimination of Schistosoma mansoni transmission by intensive MDA, than it does on Ascaris lumbricoides.
We discuss the implications of our findings for the prioritisation of resources in MDA programmes and for monitoring and evaluation programme design. The key message generated by the analyses is that great care must be taken to record individual longitudinal patterns of compliance at each round of MDA as opposed to just recording overall coverage.