Periodic antimalarials ‘safe and effective’ for infants

The study shows that periodic doses of malaria drugs can protect infants from the disease Copyright: USAID

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Research in Mozambique has added to growing evidence that periodic doses of malaria drugs can help protect small children from the disease.

The findings will be published in the August edition of The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

In the study, led by Clara Menendez of the University of Barcelona in Spain, 1,503 Mozambican children received either the malaria drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine or a placebo at three, four and nine months of age.

The researchers found that the drug was safe and well tolerated by the infants, and reduced the number of clinical cases of malaria and of hospital admissions by one-fifth.

The results are consistent with those from recent studies in Tanzania and Ghana (see Malaria drugs ‘boost children’s immunity for one year’) NW2063ENG.

But unlike the study in Ghana, there was no sign of an increase in cases of malaria in the year following completion of the third dose.

The treatment would be easy to implement because the drugs could be given at the same time as routine vaccinations.

Malaria causes about 3,000 deaths a day worldwide. There are about 300 million cases of severe illness recorded each year, predominantly among infants in sub-Saharan Africa.

Link to full paper in The Journal of Infectious Diseases

Link to accompanying commentary

Reference: The Journal of Infectious Diseases 194, 276 (2006)