Pre-elimination stage of malaria in Sri Lanka: assessing the level of hidden parasites in the population uri icon


  • Background: With the dramatic drop in the transmission of malaria in Sri Lanka in recent years, the country entered the malaria pre-elimination stage in 2008. Assessing the community prevalence of hidden malaria parasites following several years of extremely low transmission is central to the process of complete elimination. The existence of a parasite reservoir in a population free from clinical manifestations, would influence the strategy for surveillance and control towards complete elimination.
  • Discussion: A reservoir of hidden parasites is unlikely to be a major concern or a barrier to the ongoing malaria elimination efforts in Sri Lanka. However, as very low numbers of indigenous cases are still recorded, an island-wide assessment and in particular, continued alertness and follow up action are still needed. The findings of this study indicate that any future assessments should be based on an adaptive sampling approach, involving prompt sampling of all subjects within a specified radius, whenever a malaria case is identified in a given focus.
  • Methods: The prevalence of hidden parasite reservoirs in two historically malaria endemic districts, Anuradhapura and Kurunegala, previously considered as high malaria transmission areas in Sri Lanka, where peaks of transmission follow the rainy seasons was assessed. Blood samples of non-febrile individuals aged five to 55 years were collected from randomly selected areas in the two districts at community level and a questionnaire was used to collect demographic information and movement of the participants. A simple, highly sensitive nested PCR was carried out to detect both Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, simultaneously.
  • Results: In total, 3,023 individuals from 101 villages participated from both districts comprising mostly adults between the ages 19-55 years. Out of these, only about 1.4% of them (n = 19) could recall having had malaria during the past five years. Analysis of a subset of samples (n = 1322) from the two districts using PCR showed that none of the participants had hidden parasites.

publication date

  • 2010
  • 2010