• Ranking malaria risk factors to guide malaria control efforts in African highlands

      Protopopoff, Natacha; Van Bortel, Wim; Speybroeck, Niko; Van Geertruyden, Jean-Pierre; Baza, Dismas; D'Alessandro, Umberto; Coosemans, Marc; Department of Parasitology, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium; Medecins Sans Frontieres Brussels, Belgium; Department of Animal Health, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium; School of Public Health, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium; Programme de Lutte contre les Maladies Transmissibles et Carentielles, Ministry of Health, Bujumbura, Burundi; Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium (2009-11-25)
      INTRODUCTION: Malaria is re-emerging in most of the African highlands exposing the non immune population to deadly epidemics. A better understanding of the factors impacting transmission in the highlands is crucial to improve well targeted malaria control strategies. METHODS AND FINDINGS: A conceptual model of potential malaria risk factors in the highlands was built based on the available literature. Furthermore, the relative importance of these factors on malaria can be estimated through "classification and regression trees", an unexploited statistical method in the malaria field. This CART method was used to analyse the malaria risk factors in the Burundi highlands. The results showed that Anopheles density was the best predictor for high malaria prevalence. Then lower rainfall, no vector control, higher minimum temperature and houses near breeding sites were associated by order of importance to higher Anopheles density. CONCLUSIONS: In Burundi highlands monitoring Anopheles densities when rainfall is low may be able to predict epidemics. The conceptual model combined with the CART analysis is a decision support tool that could provide an important contribution toward the prevention and control of malaria by identifying major risk factors.