Mass drug administration (MDA) is a control and elimination tool for treating infectious diseases. For malaria, it is widely accepted that conducting MDA during the dry season results in the best outcomes. However, seasonal movement of populations into and out of MDA target areas is common in many places and could potentially fundamentally limit the ability of MDA campaigns to achieve elimination.
A mathematical model was used to simulate malaria transmission in two villages connected to a high-risk area into and out of which 10% of villagers traveled seasonally. MDA was given only in the villages. Prevalence reduction under various possible timings of MDA and seasonal travel was predicted.
MDA is most successful when distributed outside the traveling season and during the village low-transmission season. MDA is least successful when distributed during the traveling season and when traveling overlaps with the peak transmission season in the high-risk area. Mistiming MDA relative to seasonal travel resulted in much poorer outcomes than mistiming MDA relative to the peak transmission season within the villages.
Seasonal movement patterns of high-risk groups should be taken into consideration when selecting the optimum timing of MDA campaigns.