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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2013;7(1):e1979. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001979. Epub 2013 Jan 10.

The potential elimination of Plasmodium vivax malaria by relapse treatment: insights from a transmission model and surveillance data from NW India.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.



With over a hundred million annual infections and rising morbidity and mortality, Plasmodium vivax malaria remains largely a neglected disease. In particular, the dependence of this malaria species on relapses and the potential significance of the dormant stage as a therapeutic target, are poorly understood.


To quantify relapse parameters and assess the population-wide consequences of anti-relapse treatment, we formulated a transmission model for P. vivax suitable for parameter inference with a recently developed statistical method based on routine surveillance data. A low-endemic region in NW India, whose strong seasonality demarcates the transmission season, provides an opportunity to apply this modeling approach. Our model gives maximum likelihood estimates of 7.1 months for the mean latency and 31% for the relapse rate, in close agreement with regression estimates and clinical evaluation studies in the area. With a baseline of prevailing treatment practices, the model predicts that an effective anti-relapse treatment of 65% of those infected would result in elimination within a decade, and that periodic mass treatment would dramatically reduce the burden of the disease in a few years.


The striking dependence of P. vivax on relapses for survival reinforces the urgency to develop more effective anti-relapse treatments to replace Primaquine (PQ), the only available drug for the last fifty years. Our methods can provide alternative and simple means to estimate latency times and relapse frequency using routine epidemiological data, and to evaluate the population-wide impact of relapse treatment in areas similar to our study area.

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