BACKGROUND: In Vietnam, malaria persists in remote forested regions where infections are spatially heterogeneous, mostly asymptomatic and with low parasite density. Previous studies in Vietnam have investigated broad behavioural concepts such as 'engaging in forest activities' as risk factors for malaria infection, which may not explain heterogeneity in malaria risk, especially in malaria elimination settings.
METHODS: A mixed methods study combining ethnographic research and a cross-sectional survey was embedded in a 1-year malariometric cohort study in three ethnic minority villages in South Tra My district, Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam. Qualitative data collection included in-depth interviews, informal conversations and participant observations over a 2-month period, and the findings were used to develop the questionnaire used in the cross-sectional survey. The latter collected data on evening activities, mobility patterns and household characteristics. The primary outcome, recent exposure to malaria, was defined using the classification and regression tree method to determine significant changes in antibody titres during the year preceding the survey. Risk factor analyses for recent exposure to malaria were conducted using logistic regression.
RESULTS: 22 in-depth interviews and numerous participant observations were recorded during the ethnographic research (April to June 2015), and 160 adults (86% response rate) responded to the cross-sectional survey (November to December 2015). Recent exposure to Plasmodium falciparum malaria was estimated at 22.9 and at 17.1% for Plasmodium vivax. Ongoing malaria transmission appears to be maintained by activities that delay or disrupt sleeping in a permanent structure in which a bed net could be hung, including evening drinking gatherings, fishing, logging in the forest and outdoor TV watching.
CONCLUSIONS: Vector control tools for outdoor evening activities in villages as well as at farms, forest and river locations should be incorporated into current malaria elimination efforts in Central Vietnam. Micro-epidemiology studies using mixed-methods designs can provide a comprehensive understanding of the malaria risk at fine spatial scales and better inform the implementation of targeted interventions for malaria elimination.
- Journal Article