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Intermittent Preventive Treatment Could Prevent A Third Of Infant Malaria Cases, Study Finds

Research into intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infants (IPTi) found that one-third of malaria cases in African babies can be prevented by giving them regular doses of malaria drugs even if they have not contracted the disease, according to a Lancet study, published on Thursday, Reuters reports. The study found that IPTi “helped children build better immunity to the disease and reduced the risk of the parasite becoming drug-resistant,” but “these benefits decrease if treatment is given continuously as a prophylaxis,” Reuters writes.

The study – which analyzed data from 8,000 children and infants in Tanzania, Mozambique, Gabon and Ghana – used the 30-year old medicine sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP). Study leader Pedro Alonso, of the University of Barcelona, said SP costs between 13 and 23 U.S. cents per dose and could be given to infants when they receive routine vaccinations.

Though some promising malaria vaccines are undergoing clinical trials, Alonso said immunization alone would not offer a complete solution. “Controlling malaria is not about using one tool or another … It is about using all the tools that we have now, and new tools that we can develop, to reduce the intolerable burden of this disease,” he said.

Alonso and colleagues said IPTi is not a “not a magic bullet” and noted that SP resistance has spread to several parts of Africa, which could limit the effectiveness of the IPTi using this drug. But the intervention could prevent 6 million cases of malaria each year among those most vulnerable to the disease, Alonso said at a news conference (Kelland, 9/17). 

Alonso also said in an IPTi Consortium/PRNewswire press release that IPTi using SP “can be easily and rapidly implemented via existing WHO immunisation programmes, saving tens of thousands of lives every year across Africa” (9/17).

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