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Topographic models for predicting malaria vector breeding habitats: potential tools for vector control managers

Jephtha C Nmor12, Toshihiko Sunahara1*, Kensuke Goto3, Kyoko Futami1, George Sonye4, Peter Akweywa5, Gabriel Dida6 and Noboru Minakawa17

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Vector Ecology and Environment, Institute of Tropical Medicine (NEKKEN), Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan

2 Department of Animal and Environmental Biology, Delta State University, Abraka, Nigeria

3 Department of Eco-epidemiology, Institute of Tropical Medicine (NEKKEN), Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan

4 Ability to Solve by Knowledge, Community Project, Mbita, Kenya

5 NUITM-KEMRI Research Program, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

6 School of Public Health, Maseno University, Maseno, Kenya

7 Global Centre of Excellence Program, Institute of Tropical Medicine (NEKKEN), Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, Japan

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Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6:14  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-14

Published: 16 January 2013



Identification of malaria vector breeding sites can enhance control activities. Although associations between malaria vector breeding sites and topography are well recognized, practical models that predict breeding sites from topographic information are lacking. We used topographic variables derived from remotely sensed Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) to model the breeding sites of malaria vectors. We further compared the predictive strength of two different DEMs and evaluated the predictability of various habitat types inhabited by Anopheles larvae.


Using GIS techniques, topographic variables were extracted from two DEMs: 1) Shuttle Radar Topography Mission 3 (SRTM3, 90-m resolution) and 2) the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission Reflection Radiometer Global DEM (ASTER, 30-m resolution). We used data on breeding sites from an extensive field survey conducted on an island in western Kenya in 2006. Topographic variables were extracted for 826 breeding sites and for 4520 negative points that were randomly assigned. Logistic regression modelling was applied to characterize topographic features of the malaria vector breeding sites and predict their locations. Model accuracy was evaluated using the area under the receiver operating characteristics curve (AUC).


All topographic variables derived from both DEMs were significantly correlated with breeding habitats except for the aspect of SRTM. The magnitude and direction of correlation for each variable were similar in the two DEMs. Multivariate models for SRTM and ASTER showed similar levels of fit indicated by Akaike information criterion (3959.3 and 3972.7, respectively), though the former was slightly better than the latter. The accuracy of prediction indicated by AUC was also similar in SRTM (0.758) and ASTER (0.755) in the training site. In the testing site, both SRTM and ASTER models showed higher AUC in the testing sites than in the training site (0.829 and 0.799, respectively). The predictability of habitat types varied. Drains, foot-prints, puddles and swamp habitat types were most predictable.


Both SRTM and ASTER models had similar predictive potentials, which were sufficiently accurate to predict vector habitats. The free availability of these DEMs suggests that topographic predictive models could be widely used by vector control managers in Africa to complement malaria control strategies.

Malaria; Anopheles; Breeding habitats; Prediction; Topographic models; Kenya; Africa