Role of mass drug administration in elimination of Plasmodium falciparum malaria

May 26, 2017



Mass drug administration for elimination of Plasmodium falciparum malaria is recommended by WHO in some settings. We used consensus modelling to understand how to optimise the effects of mass drug administration in areas with low malaria transmission.


We collaborated with researchers doing field trials to establish a standard intervention scenario and standard transmission setting, and we input these parameters into four previously published models. We then varied the number of rounds of mass drug administration, coverage, duration, timing, importation of infection, and pre-administration transmission levels. The outcome of interest was the percentage reduction in annual mean prevalence of P falciparum parasite rate as measured by PCR in the third year after the final round of mass drug administration.


The models predicted differing magnitude of the effects of mass drug administration, but consensus answers were reached for several factors. Mass drug administration was predicted to reduce transmission over a longer timescale than accounted for by the prophylactic effect alone. Percentage reduction in transmission was predicted to be higher and last longer at lower baseline transmission levels. Reduction in transmission resulting from mass drug administration was predicted to be temporary, and in the absence of scale-up of other interventions, such as vector control, transmission would return to pre-administration levels. The proportion of the population treated in a year was a key determinant of simulated effectiveness, irrespective of whether people are treated through high coverage in a single round or new individuals are reached by implementation of several rounds. Mass drug administration was predicted to be more effective if continued over 2 years rather than 1 year, and if done at the time of year when transmission is lowest.


Mass drug administration has the potential to reduce transmission for a limited time, but is not an effective replacement for existing vector control. Unless elimination is achieved, mass drug administration has to be repeated regularly for sustained effect.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Figure 1

Sample simulated output from four different models of effect of mass drug administration on all-age PCR prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum infection

From year −1 to year 0, the models are at equilibrium. The timing of each round of mass drug administration in each model is shown by coloured arrows. The four different models show the output under the standard intervention scenario (70% coverage, 2 years of mass drug administration, two rounds per year, 5 weeks between rounds, seasonal transmission [based on Zambia], and 5% mean annual prevalence pre-intervention by microscopy in 2–10-year-olds). DTK=Disease Transmission Kernel. MORU=Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit.