Developing Strategies for Onchocerciasis Elimination Mapping and Surveillance Through The Diagnostic Network Optimization Approach
Frontiers in Tropical Diseases
BackgroundOnchocerciasis (river blindness) is a filarial disease targeted for elimination of transmission. However, challenges exist to the implementation of effective diagnostic and surveillance strategies at various stages of elimination programs. To address these challenges, we used a network data analytics approach to identify optimal diagnostic scenarios for onchocerciasis elimination mapping (OEM).MethodsThe diagnostic network optimization (DNO) method was used to model the implementation
... of the old Ov16 rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and of new RDTs in development for OEM under different testing strategy scenarios with varying testing locations, test performance and disease prevalence. Environmental suitability scores (ESS) based on machine learning algorithms were developed to identify areas at risk of transmission and used to select sites for OEM in Bandundu region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uige province in Angola. Test sensitivity and specificity ranges were obtained from the literature for the existing RDT, and from characteristics defined in the target product profile for the new RDTs. Sourcing and transportation policies were defined, and costing information was obtained from onchocerciasis programs. Various scenarios were created to test various state configurations. The actual demand scenarios represented the disease prevalence at IUs according to the ESS, while the counterfactual scenarios (conducted only in the DRC) are based on adapted prevalence estimates to generate prevalence close to the statistical decision thresholds (5% and 2%), to account for variability in field observations. The number of correctly classified implementation units (IUs) per scenario were estimated and key cost drivers were identified.ResultsIn both Bandundu and Uige, the sites selected based on ESS had high predicted onchocerciasis prevalence >10%. Thus, in the actual demand scenarios in both Bandundu and Uige, the old Ov16 RDT correctly classified all 13 and 11 IUs, respectively, as requiring CDTi. In the counterfactual scenarios in Bandundu, the new RDTs with higher specificity correctly classified IUs more cost effectively. The new RDT with highest specificity (99.8%) correctly classified all 13 IUs. However, very high specificity (e.g., 99.8%) when coupled with imperfect sensitivity, can result in many false negative results (missing decisions to start MDA) at the 5% statistical decision threshold (the decision rule to start MDA). This effect can be negated by reducing the statistical decision threshold to 2%. Across all scenarios, the need for second stage sampling significantly drove program costs upwards. The best performing testing strategies with new RDTs were more expensive than testing with existing tests due to need for second stage sampling, but this was offset by the cost of incorrect classification of IUs.ConclusionThe new RDTs modelled added most value in areas with variable disease prevalence, with most benefit in IUs that are near the statistical decision thresholds. Based on the evaluations in this study, DNO could be used to guide the development of new RDTs based on defined sensitivities and specificities. While test sensitivity is a minor driver of whether an IU is identified as positive, higher specificities are essential. Further, these models could be used to explore the development and optimization of new tools for other neglected tropical diseases.