Towards seasonal forecasting of malaria in India


Lauderdale JM, Caminade C, Heath AE, Jones AE, MacLeod DA, Gouda KC, Murty US, Goswami P, Mutheneni SR, Morse AP


Malaria presents public health challenge despite extensive intervention campaigns. A 30-year hindcast of the climatic suitability for malaria transmission in India is presented, using meteorological variables from a state of the art seasonal forecast model to drive a process-based, dynamic disease model.

The spatial distribution and seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation from the forecast model are compared to three observationally-based meteorological datasets. These time series are then used to drive the disease model, producing a simulated forecast of malaria and three synthetic malaria time series that are qualitatively compared to contemporary and pre-intervention malaria estimates. The area under the Relative Operator Characteristic (ROC) curve is calculated as a quantitative metric of forecast skill, comparing the forecast to the meteorologically-driven synthetic malaria time series.

Results and discussion
The forecast shows probabilistic skill in predicting the spatial distribution of Plasmodium falciparum incidence when compared to the simulated meteorologically-driven malaria time series, particularly where modelled incidence shows high seasonal and interannual variability such as in Orissa, West Bengal, and Jharkhand (North-east India), and Gujarat, Rajastan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra (North-west India). Focusing on these two regions, the malaria forecast is able to distinguish between years of “high”, “above average” and “low” malaria incidence in the peak malaria transmission seasons, with more than 70% sensitivity and a statistically significant area under the ROC curve. These results are encouraging given that the three month forecast lead time used is well in excess of the target for early warning systems adopted by the World Health Organization. This approach could form the basis of an operational system to identify the probability of regional malaria epidemics, allowing advanced and targeted allocation of resources for combatting malaria in India.


Malaria Journal



Research Themes:

Vector Biology & Climate Modelling