Characteristics of Malaria Transmission in Kataragama, Sri Lanka: A Focus for Immuno-Epidemiological Studies

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  • Malaria Research Unit, University of Colombo, The Open University of Sri Lanka, Entomology Division, Anti-Malaria Campaign, University of Edinburgh, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Parasitological and entomological parameters of malaria transmission were monitored for 17 months in 3,625 residents in a Plasmodium vivax malaria endemic region in southern Sri Lanka; the study area consisted of 7 contiguous villages where routine national malaria control operations were being conducted. Malaria was monitored in every resident; fever patients were screened and 4 periodical mass blood surveys were conducted. An annual malaria incidence rate of 23.1% was reported during the period: 9.3% was due to P. vivax and 13.8% was due to P. falciparum; there had been a recent epidemic of the latter in this region, whereas the P. falciparum incidence rate in the previous 10 years had been negligible. There was a wide seasonal fluctuation in the malaria incidence, with the peak incidence closely following the monsoon rains. The prevalence of malaria due to both species detected at the 4 mass blood surveys ranged from 0.98% (at low transmission) to 2.35% (at peak transmission periods). Adults and children developed acute clinical manifestations of malaria. Entomological measurements confirmed a low degree of endemicity with estimated inoculation rates of 0.0029 and 0.0109 (infectious bites/man/night) for P. vivax and P. falciparum, respectively. Several anopheline species contributed to the transmission, and the overall man biting rates (MBR) showed a marked seasonal variation. Malaria at Kataragama, typical of endemic areas of Sri Lanka, thus presents characteristics of “unstable” transmission. Malaria was clustered in the population. There was a low clinical tolerance to P. falciparum malaria, to which most had only recently been at risk, compared to P. vivax, to which most had had a life-long exposure.

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