Predicting key malaria transmission factors, biting and entomological inoculation rates, using modelled soil moisture in Kenya
While malaria transmission varies seasonally, large inter-annual heterogeneity of malaria incidence occurs. Variability in entomological parameters, biting rates and entomological inoculation rates (EIR) have been strongly associated with attack rates in children. The goal of this study was to assess the weather's impact on weekly biting and EIR in the endemic area of Kisian, Kenya. Entomological data collected by the U.S. Army from March 1986 through June 1988 at Kisian, Kenya was analysed with concurrent weather data from nearby Kisumu airport. A soil moisture model of surface-water availability was used to combine multiple weather parameters with landcover and soil features to improve disease prediction. Modelling soil moisture substantially improved prediction of biting rates compared to rainfall; soil moisture lagged two weeks explained up to 45% of An. gambiae biting variability, compared to 8% for raw precipitation. For An. funestus, soil moisture explained 32% variability, peaking after a 4-week lag. The interspecies difference in response to soil moisture was significant (P < 0.00001). A satellite normalized differential vegetation index (NDVI) of the study site yielded a similar correlation (r2 = 0.42 An. gambiae). Modelled soil moisture accounted for up to 56% variability of An. gambiae EIR, peaking at a lag of six weeks. The relationship between temperature and An. gambiae biting rates was less robust; maximum temperature r2 = −0.20, and minimum temperature r2 = 0.12 after lagging one week. Benefits of hydrological modelling are compared to raw weather parameters and to satellite NDVI. These findings can improve both current malaria risk assessments and those based on El Niño forecasts or global climate change model projections.