Background: Increased insecticide-treated net (ITN) use over the last decade has contributed to dramatic declines in malaria transmission and mortality, yet residual transmission persists even where ITN coverage exceeds 80%. This article presents observational data suggesting that complex human net use patterns, including multiple entries to and exits from ITNs by multiple occupants throughout the night, might be a contributing factor.
Methods: The study included dusk-to-dawn observations of bed net use in 60 households in the Peruvian Amazon. Observers recorded number of net occupants and the time and number of times each occupant entered and exited each net. The study team then tabulated time of first entry, total times each net was lifted, and, where possible, minutes spent outside by each occupant.
Results: The sample included 446 individuals and 171 observed sleeping spaces with nets. Household size ranged from 2 to 24 occupants; occupants per net ranged from 1 to 5. Nets were lifted a mean 6.1 times per night (SD 4.35, range 1-22). Observers captured substantial detail about time of and reasons for net entry and exit as well as length of time and activities undertaken outside.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that the ITN use patterns observed in this study may contribute to residual transmission. As a result, respondents to net use surveys may truthfully report that they slept under a net the previous night but may not have received the anticipated protection. More research is warranted to explore the impact of this phenomenon. Concurrent entomological data would help assess the magnitude of the effect.