Choosing interventions to eliminate forest malaria: preliminary results of two operational research studies inside Cambodian forests

Malar J. 2021 Jan 20;20(1):51. doi: 10.1186/s12936-020-03572-3.


Background: Rapid elimination of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Cambodia is a goal with both national and international significance. Transmission of malaria in Cambodia is limited to forest environments, and the main population at risk consists of forest-goers who rely on forest products for income or sustenance. The ideal interventions to eliminate malaria from this population are unknown.

Methods: In two forested regions of Cambodia, forest-goers were trained to become forest malaria workers (FMWs). In one region, FMWs performed mass screening and treatment, focal screening and treatment, and passive case detection inside the forest. In the other region, FMWs played an observational role for the first year, to inform the choice of intervention for the second year. In both forests, FMWs collected blood samples and questionnaire data from all forest-goers they encountered. Mosquito collections were performed in each forest.

Results: Malaria prevalence by PCR was high in the forest, with 2.3-5.0% positive for P. falciparum and 14.6-25.0% positive for Plasmodium vivax among forest-goers in each study site. In vectors, malaria prevalence ranged from 2.1% to 9.6%, but no P. falciparum was observed. Results showed poor performance of mass screening and treatment, with sensitivity of rapid diagnostic tests equal to 9.1% (95% CI 1.1%, 29.2%) for P. falciparum and 4.4% (95% CI 1.6%, 9.2%) for P. vivax. Malaria infections were observed in all demographics and throughout the studied forests, with no clear risk factors emerging.

Conclusions: Malaria prevalence remains high among Cambodian forest-goers, but performance of rapid diagnostic tests is poor. More adapted strategies to this population, such as intermittent preventive treatment of forest goers, should be considered.

Keywords: Cambodia; Forest; Forest-goers; Greater mekong subregion; Malaria; Mass screening and treatment; Plasmodium falciparum; Plasmodium vivax; Rapid diagnostic test.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asians / statistics & numerical data
  • Cambodia / epidemiology
  • Culicidae / parasitology*
  • Disease Eradication / methods
  • Disease Eradication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Forests*
  • Humans
  • Malaria / blood
  • Malaria / diagnosis
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Malaria / prevention & control*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / epidemiology
  • Malaria, Falciparum / prevention & control
  • Malaria, Vivax / epidemiology
  • Malaria, Vivax / prevention & control
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Mosquito Vectors / parasitology*
  • Operations Research
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors