Modelling the impact of larviciding on the population dynamics and biting rates of Simulium damnosum (s.l.): implications for vector control as a complementary strategy for onchocerciasis elimination in Africa

29 May 2018
Routledge I, Walker M, Cheke RA, Bhatt S, Nkot PB, Matthews GA, Baleguel D, Dobson HM, Wiles TL, Basañez M-G

Background: In 2012, the World Health Organization set goals for the elimination of onchocerciasis transmission by 2020 in selected African countries. Epidemiological data and mathematical modelling have indicated that elimination may not be achieved with annual ivermectin distribution in all endemic foci. Complementary and alternative treatment strategies (ATS), including vector control, will be necessary. Implementation of vector control will require that the ecology and population dynamics of Simulium damnosum (sensu lato) be carefully considered.

Methods: We adapted our previous SIMuliid POPulation dynamics (SIMPOP) model to explore the impact of larvicidal insecticides on S. damnosum (s.l.) biting rates in different ecological contexts and to identify how frequently and for how long vector control should be continued to sustain substantive reductions in vector biting. SIMPOP was fitted to data from large-scale aerial larviciding trials in savannah sites (Ghana) and small-scale ground larviciding trials in forest areas (Cameroon). The model was validated against independent data from Burkina Faso/Côte d’Ivoire (savannah) and Bioko (forest). Scenario analysis explored the effects of ecological and programmatic factors such as pre-control daily biting rate (DBR) and larviciding scheme design on reductions and resurgences in biting rates.

Results: The estimated efficacy of large-scale aerial larviciding in the savannah was greater than that of ground-based larviciding in the forest. Small changes in larvicidal efficacy can have large impacts on intervention success. At 93% larvicidal efficacy (a realistic value based on field trials), 10 consecutive weekly larvicidal treatments would reduce DBRs by 96% (e.g. from 400 to 16 bites/person/day). At 70% efficacy, and for 10 weekly applications, the DBR would decrease by 67% (e.g. from 400 to 132 bites/person/day). Larviciding is more likely to succeed in areas with lower water temperatures and where blackfly species have longer gonotrophic cycles.

Conclusions: Focal vector control can reduce vector biting rates in settings where a high larvicidal efficacy can be achieved and an appropriate duration and frequency of larviciding can be ensured. Future work linking SIMPOP with onchocerciasis transmission models will permit evaluation of the impact of combined anti-vectorial and anti-parasitic interventions on accelerating elimination of the disease.