Optimal Interruption of P. vivax Malaria Transmission Using Mass Drug Administration

Published: April 19, 2023


Anwar MN, Hickson RI, Mehra S, Price DJ, McCaw JM, Flegg MB, Flegg JA. Optimal Interruption of P. vivax Malaria Transmission Using Mass Drug Administration. Bull Math Biol. 2023 Apr 19;85(6):43. doi: 10.1007/s11538-023-01153-4. PMID: 37076740; PMCID: PMC10115738.


Plasmodium vivax is the most geographically widespread malaria-causing parasite resulting in significant associated global morbidity and mortality. One of the factors driving this widespread phenomenon is the ability of the parasites to remain dormant in the liver. Known as ‘hypnozoites’, they reside in the liver following an initial exposure, before activating later to cause further infections, referred to as ‘relapses’. As around 79-96% of infections are attributed to relapses from activating hypnozoites, we expect it will be highly impactful to apply treatment to target the hypnozoite reservoir (i.e. the collection of dormant parasites) to eliminate P. vivax. Treatment with radical cure, for example tafenoquine or primaquine, to target the hypnozoite reservoir is a potential tool to control and/or eliminate P. vivax. We have developed a deterministic multiscale mathematical model as a system of integro-differential equations that captures the complex dynamics of P. vivax hypnozoites and the effect of hypnozoite relapse on disease transmission. Here, we use our multiscale model to study the anticipated effect of radical cure treatment administered via a mass drug administration (MDA) program. We implement multiple rounds of MDA with a fixed interval between rounds, starting from different steady-state disease prevalences. We then construct an optimisation model with three different objective functions motivated on a public health basis to obtain the optimal MDA interval. We also incorporate mosquito seasonality in our model to study its effect on the optimal treatment regime. We find that the effect of MDA interventions is temporary and depends on the pre-intervention disease prevalence (and choice of model parameters) as well as the number of MDA rounds under consideration. The optimal interval between MDA rounds also depends on the objective (combinations of expected intervention outcomes). We find radical cure alone may not be enough to lead to P. vivax elimination under our mathematical model (and choice of model parameters) since the prevalence of infection eventually returns to pre-MDA levels.