Forecasting the effectiveness of indoor residual spraying for reducing dengue burden

Thomas J. Hladish, Carl A. B. Pearson, Diana Patricia Rojas, Hector Gomez-Dantes, M. Elizabeth Halloran, Gonzalo M. Vazquez-Prokopec, Ira M. Longini

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases

June 25, 2018



Historically, mosquito control programs successfully helped contain malaria and yellow fever, but recent efforts have been unable to halt the spread of dengue, chikungunya, or Zika, all transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Using a dengue transmission model and results from indoor residual spraying (IRS) field experiments, we investigated how IRS-like campaign scenarios could effectively control dengue in an endemic setting.

Methods and findings

In our model, we found that high levels of household coverage (75% treated once per year), applied proactively before the typical dengue season could reduce symptomatic infections by 89.7% (median of 1000 simulations; interquartile range [IQR]:[83.0%, 94.8%]) in year one and 78.2% (IQR: [71.2%, 88.0%]) cumulatively over the first five years of an annual program. Lower coverage had correspondingly lower effectiveness, as did reactive campaigns. Though less effective than preventative campaigns, reactive and even post-epidemic interventions retain some effectiveness; these campaigns disrupt inter-seasonal transmission, highlighting an off-season control opportunity. Regardless, none of the campaign scenarios maintain their initial effectiveness beyond two seasons, instead stabilizing at much lower levels of benefit: in year 20, median effectiveness was only 27.3% (IQR: [-21.3%, 56.6%]). Furthermore, simply ceasing an initially successful program exposes a population with lowered herd immunity to the same historical threat, and we observed outbreaks more than four-fold larger than pre-intervention outbreaks. These results do not take into account evolving insecticide resistance, thus long-term effectiveness may be lower if new, efficacious insecticides are not developed.


Using a detailed agent-based dengue transmission model for Yucatán State, Mexico, we predict that high coverage indoor residual spraying (IRS) interventions can largely eliminate transmission for a few years, when applied a few months before the typical seasonal epidemic peak. However, vector control succeeds by preventing infections, which precludes natural immunization. Thus, as a population benefits from mosquito control, it gradually loses naturally acquired herd immunity, and the control effectiveness declines; this occurs across all of our modeled scenarios, and is consistent with other empirical work. Long term control that maintains early effectiveness would require some combination of increasing investment, complementary interventions such as vaccination, and control programs across a broad region to diminish risk of importation.