Indoor residual spraying for kala-azar vector control in Bangladesh: A continuing challenge

by Rajib Chowdhury, Vashkar Chowdhury, Shyla Faria, Saiful Islam, Narayan Prosad Maheswary, Shireen Akhter, Md. Sahidul Islam, Aditya Prasad Dash, Axel Kroeger, Qamar Banu


Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in the Indian subcontinent is a fatal disease if left untreated. Between 1994 to 2013, the Ministry of Health of Bangladesh reported 1,09,266 cases of VL and 329 VL related deaths in 37 endemic districts. Indoor residual spraying (IRS) using dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was used by the national programme in the 1960s to control malaria. Despite findings of research trials demonstrating that the synthetic pyrethroid deltamethrin 5 WP was very effective at reducing vector densities, no national VL vector control operations took place in Bangladesh between 1999 to early 2012. In 2012, IRS using deltamethrin 5 WP was re-introduced by the national programme, which consisted of pre-monsoon spraying in eight highly endemic sub-districts (upazilas). The present study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of IRS on VL vectors, as well as the process and performance of the spraying activities by national programme staff.


Five highly endemic upazilas of Mymensingh district were purposively selected (Fulbaria, Trishal, Mukthagacha, Gaforgaon and Bhaluka) to conduct the present study using the WHO/TDR monitoring and evaluation tool kit. IRS operations, conducted by 136 squads/teams, and 544 spraymen, were observed using check lists and questionnaires included in the WHO/TDR monitoring and evaluation tool kit. A household (HH) acceptability survey of IRS was conducted in all study areas using a structured questionnaire in 600 HHs. To measure the efficacy of IRS, pre-IRS (two weeks prior) and post-IRS (at one and five months after), vector density was measured using CDC light traps for two consecutive nights. Bioassays, using the WHO cone-method, were carried out in 80 HHs (40 sprayed and 40 unsprayed) to measure the effectiveness of the insecticide on sprayed surfaces.


Of the 544 spraymen interviewed pre-IRS, 60%, 3% and 37% had received training for one, two and three days respectively. During spraying activities, 64% of the spraying squads had a supervisor in 4 upazilas but only one upazila (Mukthagacha) achieved 100% supervision of squads. Overall, 72.8% of the spraying squads in the study upazilas had informed HHs members to prepare their houses prior to spraying. The required personal protective equipment was not provided by the national programme during our observations and the spraying techniques used by all sprayers were sub-standard compared to the standard procedure mentioned in the M&E toolkit. In the HH interviews, 94.8% of the 600 respondents said that all their living rooms and cattle sheds had been sprayed. Regarding the effectiveness measurements (i.e. reduction of vector densities), a total of 4132 sand flies were trapped in three intervals, of which 3310 (80.1%) were P. argentipes; 46.5% (1540) males and 53.5% (1770) females. At one month post-IRS, P. argentipes densities were reduced by 22.5% but the 5 months post-IRS reduction was only 6.4% for both male and female. The bioassay tests showed a mean corrected mortality of P. argentipes sand flies at one month post-IRS of 87.3% which dropped to 74.5% at 4 months post-IRS in three upazilas, which is below the WHO threshold level (80%).


The national programme should conduct monitoring and evaluation activities to ensure high quality of IRS operations as a pre-condition for achieving a fast and sustained reduction in vector densities. This will continue to be important during the maintenance phase of VL elimination on the Indian subcontinent. Further research is needed to determine other suitable vector control option(s) when the case numbers are very low.

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