Under the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), American Samoa conducted seven rounds of mass drug administration (MDA) from 2000-2006. The World Health Organization recommends systematic post-MDA surveillance using Transmission Assessment Surveys (TAS) for epidemiological assessment of recent LF transmission. We compared the effectiveness of two survey designs for post-MDA surveillance: a school-based survey of children aged 6-7 years, and a community-based survey targeting people aged ≥8 years.
In 2016, we conducted a systematic school-based TAS in all elementary schools (N = 29) and a cluster survey in 28 villages on the two main islands of American Samoa. We collected information on demographics and risk factors for infection using electronic questionnaires, and recorded geo-locations of schools and households. Blood samples were collected to test for circulating filarial antigen (CFA) using the Alere Filariasis Test Strip. For those who tested positive, we prepared slides for microscopic examination of microfilaria and provided treatment. Descriptive statistics were performed for questionnaire variables. Data were weighted and adjusted to account for sampling design and sex for both surveys, and for age in the community survey.
The school-based TAS (n = 1143) identified nine antigen-positive children and found an overall adjusted CFA prevalence of 0.7% (95% CI: 0.3-1.8). Of the nine positive children, we identified one microfilariaemic 7-year-old child. The community-based survey (n = 2507, 711 households) identified 102 antigen-positive people, and estimated an overall adjusted CFA prevalence of 6.2% (95% CI: 4.5-8.6). Adjusted village-level prevalence ranged from 0-47.1%. CFA prevalence increased with age and was higher in males. Of 86 antigen-positive community members from whom slides were prepared, 22 (25.6%) were microfilaraemic. School-based TAS had limited sensitivity (range 0-23.8%) and negative predictive value (range 25-83.3%) but had high specificity (range 83.3-100%) and positive predictive value (range 0-100%) for identifying villages with ongoing transmission.
American Samoa failed the school-based TAS in 2016, and the community-based survey identified higher than expected numbers of antigen-positive people. School-based TAS was logistically simpler and enabled sampling of a larger proportion of the target population, but the results did not provide a good indication of the overall CFA prevalence in older age groups and was not sensitive at identifying foci of ongoing transmission. The community-based survey, although operationally more challenging, identified antigen-positive individuals of all ages, and foci of high antigen prevalence. Both surveys confirmed recrudescence of LF transmission.
To evaluate strategies to improve the sensitivity of the TAS for detecting evidence of recent lymphatic filariasis transmission in an evaluation unit (EU). The TAS Strengthening Study in American Samoa is designed to assess additional indicators that may be added to the current TAS platform in order to strengthen the resulting stopping or surveillance decisions. A comprehensive analysis will be conducted to understand the correlation between antigen and antibody in adults and children with the mosquito data. A spatial analysis looking at microfoci of infection will also be conducted. Xenomonitoring work to assess Aedes mosquitoes is underway.
Preliminary Findings and Lessons Learned
The ultimate goal of this study is to strengthen the existing TAS platform so that the programs can be more confident with their stopping and surveillance decisions. In order to strengthen the existing TAS platform we need to better understand which target population(s) and diagnostic indicator(s) are best-suited for identifying areas with persistent transmission that is not expected to cease on its own, knowing that the answer may vary according the primary vector and stage of the program. In the selected sites a community-based TAS was conducted using the standard sampling of 6-7 year olds while a community TAS (individuals >8 years) was conducted concurrently. All samples were tested via FTS and DBS (for Wb123 ELISA). In these same communities a molecular xenomonitoring study will take place and the mosquitoes will be tested for filarial DNA to relate back to the human specimens. To date human sampling has been completed in all sites and laboratory analysis of the specimens is complete. Mosquito collection has been completed in Haiti and Tanzania and the PCR analysis has been completed in Haiti and is planned for Tanzania (pending the arrival of a new PCR machine). In American Samoa xenomonitoring has been delayed due to weather conditions and arbovirus outbreaks; work is expected to commence spring 2018.