The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
SD, DG and BR collected the field data. KY, SD and BR performed the microscopy. SD, DG and KY performed the molecular study. KY and SD identified the mosquito species and analysed the data. SD, KY and BR drafted the manuscript. PC and VV participated in the study design and edited the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the manuscript.
Availability of data and materials
Malaria in northeast India affects children and adults annually. The number of malaria cases reported has declined over the past few years. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether there is an actual decline in parasitaemia or whether asymptomatic malaria infections are on the rise, especially in forested and forest-fringed areas. Asymptomatic malaria forms a parasite reservoir that acts as an epicentre for malaria spread during high-transmission season. Therefore it is important to understand the quantum of asymptomatic malaria infections among the vulnerable population.
Four forest fringed historically malaria endemic villages were selected for the study. A total of 133 individuals without a fever history in the past four weeks were tested for malaria parasite using rapid diagnostic test (RDT), microscopy and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay during January – February 2014. Indoor resting Anopheles vectors were collected, identified and tested for sporozoite using VectorTest™ panel assay during October 2013 to March 2014, which is a low transmission season for malaria. Social and demographic data were recorded during the study.
Mean age (±SEM) of the participants was 16.1 ± 1.2 years (95 % CI: 13.8–18.4). All participants (100 %) reported to use mosquito nets. Altogether, 43.6 % of participants had education below primary level and only 9 % reported a travel history during the past four weeks. All RDT, microscopy and PCR assays were found negative indicating no asymptomatic malaria parasitaemia. Seven known malaria vector species namely, Anopheles nivipes, An. minimus, An. annularis, An. vagus, An. aconitus, An. philippinensis and An. culicifacies, were recorded in the present study. VectorTest™ sporozoite panel assay conducted on 45 pools (N = 224) of vector mosquitoes were found negative for Plasmodium sporozoite.
Northeastern states of India report asymptomatic malaria parasitemia along with high malaria transmission. An. minimus and An. dirus are recognised as efficient vectors, but An. culicifacies, An. philippinensis and An. annularis also play role in malaria transmission. Currently all participants were found negative for asymptomatic malaria, however the small sample size may restrict the scope of present results to the population living in more remote areas.
No cases of asymptomatic malaria infections parasitaemia was found in the present study conducted during a low transmission season indicating that asymptomatic malaria parasitaemia may not be prevalent in the region. Mosquito specimens were tested negative for the malaria sporozoites. Study findings encourage the ongoing malaria intervention efforts and recommends similar investigations in different ecological areas involving large populations.