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Effects of meteorological factors on epidemic malaria in Ethiopia: a statistical modelling approach based on theoretical reasoning

  • T. A. ABEKU (a1) (a2), S. J. DE VLAS (a1), G. J. J. M. BORSBOOM (a1), A. TADEGE (a3), Y. GEBREYESUS (a3), H. GEBREYOHANNES (a3), D. ALAMIREW (a4), A. SEIFU (a4), N. J. D. NAGELKERKE (a1) (a5) and J. D. F. HABBEMA (a1)...


This study was conducted to quantify the association between meteorological variables and incidence of Plasmodium falciparum in areas with unstable malaria transmission in Ethiopia. We used morbidity data pertaining to microscopically confirmed cases reported from 35 sites throughout Ethiopia over a period of approximately 6–7 years. A model was developed reflecting biological relationships between meteorological and morbidity variables. A model that included rainfall 2 and 3 months earlier, mean minimum temperature of the previous month and P. falciparum case incidence during the previous month was fitted to morbidity data from the various areas. The model produced similar percentages of over-estimation (19·7% of predictions exceeded twice the observed values) and under-estimation (18·6% were less than half the observed values). Inclusion of maximum temperature did not improve the model. The model performed better in areas with relatively high or low incidence (>85% of the total variance explained) than those with moderate incidence (55–85% of the total variance explained). The study indicated that a dynamic immunity mechanism is needed in a prediction model. The potential usefulness and drawbacks of the modelling approach in studying the weather–malaria relationship are discussed, including a need for mechanisms that can adequately handle temporal variations in immunity to malaria.


Corresponding author

Disease Control and Vector Biology Unit, Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7612 7861. Fax: +44 (0) 20 7580 9075. E-mail:


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