Gametocyte carriage in an era of changing malaria epidemiology: A 19-year analysis of a malaria longitudinal cohort
Background: Interventions to block malaria transmission from humans to mosquitoes are currently in development. To be successfully implemented, key populations need to be identified where the use of these transmission-blocking and/or reducing strategies will have greatest impact. Methods: We used data from a longitudinally monitored cohort of children from Kilifi county located along the Kenyan coast collected between 1998-2016 to describe the distribution and prevalence of gametocytaemia in relation to transmission intensity, time and age. Data from 2,223 children accounting for 9,134 person-years of follow-up assessed during cross-sectional surveys for asexual parasites and gametocytes were used in logistic regression models to identify factors predictive of gametocyte carriage in this cohort. Results: Our analysis showed that children 1-5 years of age were more likely to carry microscopically detectable gametocytes than their older counterparts. Carrying asexual parasites and recent episodes of clinical malaria were also strong predictors of gametocyte carriage. The prevalence of asexual parasites and of gametocyte carriage declined over time, and after 2006, when artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) was introduced, recent episodes of clinical malaria ceased to be a predictor of gametocyte carriage. Conclusions: Gametocyte carriage in children in Kilifi has fallen over time. Previous episodes of clinical malaria may contribute to the development of carriage, but this appears to be mitigated by the use of ACTs highlighting the impact that gametocidal antimalarials can have in reducing the overall prevalence of gametocytaemia when targeted on acute febrile illness.