Long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets (LLINs) are highly effective for malaria prevention. However, it is also clear that durability monitoring is essential to predict when, post-distribution, a net population, no longer meets minimum WHO standards and needs to be replaced. Following a national distribution campaign in 2013, we tracked two durability indicators, physical integrity and bio-efficacy at six and 12 months post-distribution. While the loss of net integrity during this period was in line with expectations for a one-year net life, bio-efficacy results suggested that nets were losing insecticidal effect faster than expected. The rate of bio-efficacy loss varied significantly between different net brands.
We tested 600 randomly selected LLINs, 200 from each of three net brands. Each brand came from different eco-epidemiological zones reflecting the original distribution scheme. Fabric integrity (size and number of holes) was quantified using the proportional hole index (pHI). A subsample of the nets, 134 new nets, 150 at six months and 124 at 12 months, were then tested for bio-efficacy using the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended method.
Three net types, Netprotect®, Royalsentry® and Yorkool®, were followed. After six months, 54%, 39% and 45%, respectively, showed visible loss of integrity. The median pHI by type was estimated to be one, zero and one respectively. The percentage of damaged nets increased after 12 months such that 83.5%, 74% and 68.5%, had holes. The median pHI for each brand of nets was 47.5, 47 and 23. No significant difference in the estimated pHI at either six or 12 months was observed. There was a statistically significant difference in the proportion of hole size category between the three brands (χ (2) = 15.761, df = 4, P = 0.003). In cone bio-assays, mortality of new Yorkool® nets was surprisingly low (48.6%), mortality was 90.2% and 91.3% for Netprotect® and Royalsentry® (F (2, 131) = 81.59, P < 0.0001), respectively. At 12 month use, all tested nets were below the WHO threshold for replacement.
These findings suggest that there is a need for better net quality control before distribution. More frequent replacement of LLINs is probably not an option programmatically. Regardless of prior approval, LLIN durability monitoring for quality assessment as well as net loss following distribution is necessary to improve malaria control efforts.