Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Intermittent Drugs Seen Highly Protective against Malaria

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Intermittent Drugs Seen Highly Protective against Malaria

Article excerpt

Malaria drugs given intermittently at the same time as routine childhood vaccinations could cut malaria episodes by nearly two-thirds, according to a randomised, placebo controlled trial reported in the 12 May issue of The Lancet.

Dr David Schellenberg and colleagues from the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, and the Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre, United Republic of Tanzania, randomly assigned either sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine, a commonly used antimalarial drug combination, or placebo to 701 infants living in a rural area of the United Republic of Tanzania. The treatment was given at 2, 3 and 9 months of age alongside routine vaccinations delivered through WHO's Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). All the children also received iron supplementation between 2 and 6 months of age.

The Ifakara area where the trial was conducted has a high rate of malaria transmission and malaria is especially severe in under-1-year-old children. The treatment, the study found, reduced the rate of clinical malaria by 59%, the rate of severe anaemia by 50%, the number of hospital admissions by 30%, and the rate of all febrile episodes by 13%. The treatment was well tolerated and no drug-attributable side-effects were observed.

Professor Pedro Alonso, head of epidemiology and international health at the Hospital Clinic Barcelona, and one of the study authors, told the Bulletin: "This drug costs less than 20 cents and our approach to using it makes use of existing contacts between the target population and health care workers. So this approach appears to be an extremely good buy."

One concern about using chemoprophylaxis is that drug resistance may develop. …

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