Altitude-Dependent and -Independent Variations in Plasmodium falciparum Prevalence in Northeastern Tanzania

Chris J. Drakeley, Ilona Carneiro, Hugh Reyburn, Robert Malima, John P. A. Lusingu,Jonathan Cox, Thor G. Theander,Watoky M. M. M. Nkya, Martha M. Lemnge, and Eleanor M. Riley JID 2005:191
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Effective malaria control requires information about intensity of transmission across large areas and populations. Estimates based on entomological factors lack precision and are not cost-effective to obtain. We tested altitude and rainfall measurements as correlates of transmission intensity in different ecological settings. Methods. We conducted 2 cross-sectional surveys of 12,000 people (1–45 years old) in 6 altitude transects (150–1800 m) in the Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions of Tanzania. Data were analyzed for associations with altitude and rainfall estimates by use of appropriate regression models. Results. Plasmodium falciparum prevalence showed a negative relationship with altitude (19% and 21% decrease/100-m altitude increase, respectively, in children in Kilimanjaro and Tanga) and rainfall during the 3 months before the survey (46% decrease/100-mm rainfall increase in children in Kilimanjaro). Mean hemoglobin concentrations increased with altitude (0.05 and 0.09 g/dL/100-m altitude increase, respectively, in children in Kilimanjaro and Tanga) and rainfall (0.17 g/dL/100-mm rainfall increase in children and adults in Kilimanjaro). Discussion. Altitude and rainfall were correlated with parasite prevalence and mean hemoglobin concentration; however, the relationship varied according to ecological setting. Climatological variables alone cannot predict malarial outcomes. Local variations in seasonality of malaria transmission—together with vector species composition, topography, host and parasite genetics, and socioeconomic factors—may influence malaria prevalence.