Background: Recent global progress in scaling up malaria control interventions has revived the goal of complete elimination in many countries. Decreasing transmission intensity generally leads to increasingly patchy spatial patterns of malaria transmission in elimination settings, with control programs having to accurately identify remaining foci in order to efficiently target interventions.
Findings: The role of connectivity between different pockets of local transmission is of increasing importance as programs near elimination since humans are able to transfer parasites beyond the limits of mosquito dispersal, thus re-introducing parasites to previously malaria-free regions. Here, we discuss recent advances in the quantification of spatial epidemiology of malaria, particularly Plasmodium falciparum, in the context of transmission reduction interventions. Further, we highlight the challenges and promising directions for the development of integrated mapping, modeling, and genomic approaches that leverage disparate datasets to measure both connectivity and transmission.
Conclusion: A more comprehensive understanding of the spatial transmission of malaria can be gained using a combination of parasite genetics and epidemiological modeling and mapping. However, additional molecular and quantitative methods are necessary to answer these public health-related questions.
Keywords: Malaria; Parasite genomics; Plasmodium falciparum; Spatial modeling.