Supporting elimination of lymphatic filariasis in Samoa by predicting locations of residual infection using machine learning and geostatistics.

Mayfield HJ, Sturrock H, Arnold BF, Andrade-Pacheco R, Kearns T, Graves P, Naseri T, Thomsen R, Gass K, Lau CL

The global elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a major focus of the World Health Organization. One key challenge is locating residual infections that can perpetuate the transmission cycle. We show how a targeted sampling strategy using predictions from a geospatial model, combining random forests and geostatistics, can improve the sampling efficiency for identifying locations with high infection prevalence. Predictions were made based on the household locations of infected persons identified from previous surveys, and environmental variables relevant to mosquito density. Results show that targeting sampling using model predictions would have allowed 52% of infections to be identified by sampling just 17.7% of households. The odds ratio for identifying an infected individual in a household at a predicted high risk compared to a predicted low risk location was 10.2 (95% CI 4.2-22.8). This study provides evidence that a 'one size fits all' approach is unlikely to yield optimal results when making programmatic decisions based on model predictions. Instead, model assumptions and definitions should be tailored to each situation based on the objective of the surveillance program. When predictions are used in the context of the program objectives, they can result in a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of locating infected individuals.