Background: In order to control and eliminate malaria, areas of on-going transmission need to be identified and targeted for malaria control interventions. Immediately following intense interventions, malaria transmission can become more heterogeneous if interventions are more successful in some areas than others. Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea, has been subject to comprehensive malaria control interventions since 2004. This has resulted in substantial reductions in the parasite burden, although this drop has not been uniform across the island.
Methods/principal findings: In 2008, filter paper blood samples were collected from 7387 people in a cross-sectional study incorporating 18 sentinel sites across Bioko, Equatorial Guinea. Antibodies were measured to P. falciparum Apical Membrane Antigen-1 (AMA-1) by Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Age-specific seropositivity rates were used to estimate seroconversion rates (SCR). Analysis indicated there had been at least a 60% decline in SCR in four out of five regions on the island. Changes in SCR showed a high degree of congruence with changes in parasite rate (PR) and with regional reductions in all cause child mortality. The mean age adjusted concentration of anti-AMA-1 antibodies was mapped to identify areas where individual antibody responses were higher than expected. This approach confirmed the North West of the island as a major focus of continuing infection and an area where control interventions need to be concentrated or re-evaluated.
Conclusion/interpretation: Both SCR and PR revealed heterogeneity in malaria transmission and demonstrated the variable effectiveness of malaria control measures. This work confirms the utility of serological analysis as an adjunct measure for monitoring transmission. Age-specific seroprevalence based evidence of changes in transmission over time will be of particular value when no baseline data are available. Importantly, SCR data provide additional evidence to link malaria control activities to contemporaneous reductions in all-cause child mortality.