The links between agriculture, Anopheles mosquitoes, and malaria risk in children younger than 5 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a population-based, cross-sectional, spatial study

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Abstract

Background: The relationship between agriculture, Anopheles mosquitoes, and malaria in Africa is not fully understood, but it is important for malaria control as countries consider expanding agricultural projects to address population growth and food demand. Therefore, we aimed to assess the effect of agriculture on Anopheles biting behaviour and malaria risk in children in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). Methods: We did a population-based, cross-sectional, spatial study of rural children (<5 years) in the DR Congo. We used information about the presence of malaria parasites in each child, as determined by PCR analysis of dried-blood spots from the 2013–14 DR Congo Demographic and Health Survey (DHS). We also used data from the DHS, a longitudinal entomological study, and available land cover and climate data to evaluate the relationships between agriculture, Anopheles biting behaviour, and malaria prevalence. Satellite imagery was used to measure the percentage of agricultural land cover around DHS villages and Anopheles sites. Anopheles biting behaviour was assessed by Human Landing Catch. We used probit regression to assess the relationship between agriculture and the probability of malaria infection, as well as the relationship between agriculture and the probability that a mosquito was caught biting indoors. Findings: Between Aug 13, 2013, and Feb 13, 2014, a total of 9790 dried-blood spots were obtained from the DHS, of which 4612 participants were included in this study. Falciparum malaria infection prevalence in rural children was 38·7% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 37·3–40·0). Increasing exposure to agriculture was associated with increasing malaria risk with a high posterior probability (estimate 0·07, 95% UI −0·04 to 0·17; posterior probability [estimate >0]=0·89), with the probability of malaria infection increased between 0·2% (95% UI −0·1 to 3·4) and 2·6% (–1·5 to 6·6) given a 15% increase in agricultural cover, depending on other risk factors. The models predicted that large increases in agricultural cover (from 0% to 75%) increase the probability of infection by as much as 13·1% (95% UI −7·3 to 28·9). Increased risk might be due to Anopheles gambiae sensu lato, whose probability of biting indoors increased between 11·3% (95% UI −15·3 to 25·6) and 19·7% (–12·1 to 35·9) with a 15% increase in agriculture. Interpretation: Malaria control programmes must consider the possibility of increased risk due to expanding agriculture. Governments considering initiating large-scale agricultural projects should therefore also consider accompanying additional malaria control measures. Funding: National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, President's Malaria Initiative, and Royster Society of Fellows at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Janko, M. M., Irish, S. R., Reich, B. J., Peterson, M., Doctor, S. M., Mwandagalirwa, M. K., … Emch, M. E. (2018). The links between agriculture, Anopheles mosquitoes, and malaria risk in children younger than 5 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a population-based, cross-sectional, spatial study. The Lancet Planetary Health, 2(2), e74–e82. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(18)30009-3

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