An accelerated preventive drug regime could prevent malaria infection and death in Africa

Malaria infection and deaths could be avoided by more than half a million young children thanks to the accelerated regime of preventative drugs being rolled out in four African countries, according to the world health agency Unitaid.

The intervention, known as intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infants plus (IPTi +), is based on a strategy recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) that uses the antimalarial sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to prevent malaria in children under one year of age.

In its current IPTi regimen, the protection offered to infants lasts only up to one year, but with IPTi + the dose is increased and [this] extends the age limit to two years, which we hope will have a greater impact. “

Alexandra Cameron, Senior Technical Manager for Malaria, Unitaid

IPTi is safe and can reduce malaria in children under the age of one by 30%, but is underused in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the health agency.

This happened when the WHO last week approved the use of the RTS, S vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.

However, health experts say other interventions are needed, as the vaccine is only 30% effective in reducing severe cases of malaria.

The latest WHO report on global malaria showed this in 2019, most malaria cases and deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, representing 94% of the 229 million malaria cases reported worldwide. Almost 70% of 409,000 malaria deaths worldwide occur in children under the age of five, making children the most vulnerable group.

With a $ 35 million investment from Unitaid, the IPTI + program, led by Population Services International (PSI), aims to develop scalable models in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Mozambique using approximately 2.5 million doses. sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to protect over half a million children under the age of two from malaria, the Unitaid statement added.

IPTi + is a cost-effective measure, with the delivery process providing fair access through mass campaigns and the community, according to Unitaid. The intervention is tied to babies’ immunization schedules to provide a wider range, Cameron said. SciDev.Net.

“This is a country-led project. And [in] during the first nine months of the four-year project, PSI will work with national malaria control programs in the target countries on how the project will be implemented to allow local needs and contextual constraints to be met and addressed, ”Cameron explains.

Widespread use of IPTi has previously faced challenges, including misconceptions about the efficacy of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and a lack of favorable policies, according to Unitaid.

Bedilu Alamirie, an assistant professor of statistics at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, says partnerships with relevant ministries, research institutions and other key players that can provide further guidance for the project need to be strengthened.

Bedilu, who is an expert in mapping the risk of malaria in children in Mozambique, says SciDev.Net: “This intervention is good and I would emphasize that it must be strongly managed by data to ensure accurate efficiency.”

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