Though malaria levels have decreased in countries such as Malaysia and Bhutan, pockets of infection remain, mainly among men living or working outdoors.
This shows that measures, such as nets, that help in homes are ineffective, the scientists wrote in the Lancet.
The scientists suggested that treated hammocks or clothing could be more useful, the BBC reported.
Women and young children are largely affected in countries where there are high levels of malaria. But in places where there has been success in reducing overall levels, it is adult men who bear most risk.
Those working in forests or plantations, or sleeping in fields overnight to protect crops, are all specific groups - known as "hot pops" (populations).
In the Philippines it was found that men who went to forests at night to hunt or gather wood were six times more likely to be infected than other men.
In Sri Lanka, where malaria incidence fell by 99.9 percent between 1999 and 2011, the proportion of infections in men rose from 54 percent to 93 percent.
The scientists suggested this might be linked to the conflict in the island, which ran from 1983 to 2009.
Other groups who are disproportionately affected include ethnic or political minorities who are typically poor and often on the move.
The scientists said that different measures are needed compared with traditional malaria prevention work.
Prof Sir Richard Feachem, director of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco, the study's lead author, noted that the malaria control strategies implemented over the last decade have been highly successful in reducing malaria worldwide.
But he said that these strategies must evolve to respond effectively to the changing patterns of infection in low transmission areas.
He suggested that more sophisticated and targeted approaches to identifying those people who are infected, and responding promptly and effectively, must be put in place.
These new approaches are being pioneered with great success in countries such as China, Sri Lanka and Swaziland, he added.