The Impact of Hotspot-Targeted Interventions on Malaria Transmission in Rachuonyo South District in the Western Kenyan Highlands: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

PLoS Med. 2016 Apr 12;13(4):e1001993. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001993. eCollection 2016 Apr.


Background: Malaria transmission is highly heterogeneous, generating malaria hotspots that can fuel malaria transmission across a wider area. Targeting hotspots may represent an efficacious strategy for reducing malaria transmission. We determined the impact of interventions targeted to serologically defined malaria hotspots on malaria transmission both inside hotspots and in surrounding communities.

Methods and findings: Twenty-seven serologically defined malaria hotspots were detected in a survey conducted from 24 June to 31 July 2011 that included 17,503 individuals from 3,213 compounds in a 100-km2 area in Rachuonyo South District, Kenya. In a cluster-randomized trial from 22 March to 15 April 2012, we randomly allocated five clusters to hotspot-targeted interventions with larviciding, distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, and focal mass drug administration (2,082 individuals in 432 compounds); five control clusters received malaria control following Kenyan national policy (2,468 individuals in 512 compounds). Our primary outcome measure was parasite prevalence in evaluation zones up to 500 m outside hotspots, determined by nested PCR (nPCR) at baseline and 8 wk (16 June-6 July 2012) and 16 wk (21 August-10 September 2012) post-intervention by technicians blinded to the intervention arm. Secondary outcome measures were parasite prevalence inside hotpots, parasite prevalence in the evaluation zone as a function of distance from the hotspot boundary, Anopheles mosquito density, mosquito breeding site productivity, malaria incidence by passive case detection, and the safety and acceptability of the interventions. Intervention coverage exceeded 87% for all interventions. Hotspot-targeted interventions did not result in a change in nPCR parasite prevalence outside hotspot boundaries (p ≥ 0.187). We observed an average reduction in nPCR parasite prevalence of 10.2% (95% CI -1.3 to 21.7%) inside hotspots 8 wk post-intervention that was statistically significant after adjustment for covariates (p = 0.024), but not 16 wk post-intervention (p = 0.265). We observed no statistically significant trend in the effect of the intervention on nPCR parasite prevalence in the evaluation zone in relation to distance from the hotspot boundary 8 wk (p = 0.27) or 16 wk post-intervention (p = 0.75). Thirty-six patients with clinical malaria confirmed by rapid diagnostic test could be located to intervention or control clusters, with no apparent difference between the study arms. In intervention clusters we caught an average of 1.14 female anophelines inside hotspots and 0.47 in evaluation zones; in control clusters we caught an average of 0.90 female anophelines inside hotspots and 0.50 in evaluation zones, with no apparent difference between study arms. Our trial was not powered to detect subtle effects of hotspot-targeted interventions nor designed to detect effects of interventions over multiple transmission seasons.

Conclusions: Despite high coverage, the impact of interventions targeting malaria vectors and human infections on nPCR parasite prevalence was modest, transient, and restricted to the targeted hotspot areas. Our findings suggest that transmission may not primarily occur from hotspots to the surrounding areas and that areas with highly heterogeneous but widespread malaria transmission may currently benefit most from an untargeted community-wide approach. Hotspot-targeted approaches may have more validity in settings where human settlement is more nuclear.

Trial registration: NCT01575613.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Culicidae / growth & development
  • Culicidae / parasitology*
  • DNA, Protozoan / blood
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Female
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insect Vectors / growth & development
  • Insect Vectors / parasitology*
  • Insecticide-Treated Bednets*
  • Insecticides*
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Malaria / diagnosis
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Malaria / prevention & control*
  • Malaria / transmission*
  • Male
  • Mosquito Control / methods*
  • Plasmodium* / genetics
  • Plasmodium* / growth & development
  • Plasmodium* / immunology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Population Density
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Insecticides

Associated data