Low-level malaria carriers are the source of 20-50 percent of transmissions
The study gathered data from more than 100 surveys from endemic countries. The researchers found that low-level carriers with submicroscopic malaria infections cause so many infections because there are a large number of low-level carriers in particular geographic areas, the Examiner reports.
"The data show that low-density, submicroscopic malaria infections are most common in areas with low levels of malaria transmission, which is surprising since people are less likely to have immunity from previous malaria attacks," Lucy Okell, the lead author of the study, said, according to the Examiner. "Control programs are increasingly considering the use of screen and treat programs, and our results suggest that in some areas it may be worth investing in more sensitive diagnostic methods."
Malaria detection often consists of two methods - routine microscopy and sensitive malaria techniques. The more sensitive PCR method detects twice as many malaria infections because it shows the submicroscopic infections as well.
Low-level carriers are less likely to transmit the malaria parasite than carriers with a heavy infection.
The research team consisted of scientists from Burkina Faso, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The study was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the Examiner reports.