Household and individual level risk factors associated with declining malaria incidence in Meghalaya, India: implications for malaria elimination in low-endemic settings

Rajiv Sarkar, Anne Kessler, Bandapkupar Mawkhlieng, Steven A. Sullivan, Mark L. Wilson, Jane M. Carlton, Sandra Albert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A detailed analysis of household and individual level Plasmodium infection patterns in two low-endemic districts of Meghalaya was undertaken to better understand the epidemiology of malaria in northeast India. Methods: Socio-demographic and behavioural information from residents (aged 1–69 years) of households were collected through pre-tested, questionnaire conducted in 2018 and 2019. Blood samples collected from participants were tested for Plasmodium falciparum and/or Plasmodium vivax infection using rapid diagnostic test, microscopy and PCR. Plasma samples from a subset of participants were analysed for antibodies against thirteen P. falciparum and four P. vivax antigens. Associations between household and individual level risk factors, and Plasmodium infections were evaluated using multilevel logistic regression models. Results: A total of 2753 individuals from 827 households were enrolled in 2018, and 834 individuals from 222 households were enrolled in 2019. Of them, 33 (1.2%) were positive by PCR for P. falciparum in 2018 and none were positive for P. vivax. In 2019, no PCR-positive individuals were detected. All, but one, infections were asymptomatic; all 33 infections were sub-microscopic. Reported history of malaria in the past 12 months (OR = 8.84) and history of travel in the past 14 days (OR = 10.06) were significantly associated with Plasmodium infection. A significant trend of increased seropositivity with age was noted for all 17 antigens. Although adults (≥ 18 years) consistently had the highest seropositivity rates, a sizeable proportion of under-five children were also found to be seropositive. Almost all individuals (99.4%) reported sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed-net, and household indoor residual spray coverage in the 12 months preceding the survey was low (23%). Most participants correctly identified common signs and symptoms of malaria, i.e., fever (96.4%), headache (71.2%), chills (83.2%) and body-ache (61.8%). Almost all participants (94.3%) used government-provided services for treatment of malaria. Conclusion: This study explored the epidemiology of malaria in two communities in Meghalaya, India, in the context of declining transmission. The presence of widespread asymptomatic infections and seropositivity among under-five children suggest that low-level Plasmodium transmission persists in this region. Implications of the study findings for malaria elimination efforts in low-transmission settings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number460
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Asymptomatic infection
  • Malaria elimination
  • Northeast India
  • Transmission intensity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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