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Geo-additive modelling of malaria in Burundi

Author(s): Nkurunziza Hermenegilde | Gebhardt Albrecht | Pilz Jürgen

Journal: Malaria Journal
ISSN 1475-2875

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 234;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background Malaria is a major public health issue in Burundi in terms of both morbidity and mortality, with around 2.5 million clinical cases and more than 15,000 deaths each year. It is still the single main cause of mortality in pregnant women and children below five years of age. Because of the severe health and economic burden of malaria, there is still a growing need for methods that will help to understand the influencing factors. Several studies/researches have been done on the subject yielding different results as which factors are most responsible for the increase in malaria transmission. This paper considers the modelling of the dependence of malaria cases on spatial determinants and climatic covariates including rainfall, temperature and humidity in Burundi. Methods The analysis carried out in this work exploits real monthly data collected in the area of Burundi over 12 years (1996-2007). Semi-parametric regression models are used. The spatial analysis is based on a geo-additive model using provinces as the geographic units of study. The spatial effect is split into structured (correlated) and unstructured (uncorrelated) components. Inference is fully Bayesian and uses Markov chain Monte Carlo techniques. The effects of the continuous covariates are modelled by cubic p-splines with 20 equidistant knots and second order random walk penalty. For the spatially correlated effect, Markov random field prior is chosen. The spatially uncorrelated effects are assumed to be i.i.d. Gaussian. The effects of climatic covariates and the effects of other spatial determinants are estimated simultaneously in a unified regression framework. Results The results obtained from the proposed model suggest that although malaria incidence in a given month is strongly positively associated with the minimum temperature of the previous months, regional patterns of malaria that are related to factors other than climatic variables have been identified, without being able to explain them. Conclusions In this paper, semiparametric models are used to model the effects of both climatic covariates and spatial effects on malaria distribution in Burundi. The results obtained from the proposed models suggest a strong positive association between malaria incidence in a given month and the minimum temperature of the previous month. From the spatial effects, important spatial patterns of malaria that are related to factors other than climatic variables are identified. Potential explanations (factors) could be related to socio-economic conditions, food shortage, limited access to health care service, precarious housing, promiscuity, poor hygienic conditions, limited access to drinking water, land use (rice paddies for example), displacement of the population (due to armed conflicts).

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