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Reactive, self-administered malaria treatment against asymptomatic malaria infection: results of a cluster randomized controlled trial in The Gambia

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

BACKGROUND: Selectively targeting and treating malaria-infected individuals may further decrease parasite carriage in low-burden settings. Using a trans-disciplinary approach, a reactive treatment strategy to reduce Plasmodium falciparum prevalence in participating communities was co-developed and tested.

METHODS: This is a 2-arm, open-label, cluster-randomized trial involving villages in Central Gambia during the 2017 and 2018 malaria transmission season. Villages were randomized in a 1:1 ratio using a minimizing algorithm. In the intervention arm, trained village health workers delivered a full course of pre-packed dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine to all residents of compounds where clinical cases were reported while in the control arm, compound residents were screened for infection at the time of the index case reporting. All index cases were treated following national guidelines. The primary endpoint was malaria prevalence, determined by molecular methods, at the end of the intervention period.

RESULTS: The trial was carried out in 50 villages: 34 in 2017 and 16 additional villages in 2018. At the end of the 2018 transmission season, malaria prevalence was 0.8% (16/1924, range 0-4%) and 1.1% (20/1814, range 0-17%) in the intervention and control arms, respectively. The odds of malaria infection were 29% lower in the intervention than in the control arm after adjustment for age (OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.27-1.84, p = 0.48). Adherence to treatment was high, with 98% (964/979) of those treated completing the 3-day treatment. Over the course of the study, only 37 villages, 20 in the intervention and 17 in the control arm, reported at least one clinical case. The distribution of clinical cases by month in both transmission seasons was similar and the odds of new clinical malaria cases during the trial period did not vary between arms (OR 1.04, 95% CI 0.57-1.91, p = 0.893). All adverse events were classified as mild to moderate and resolved completely.

CONCLUSION: The systematic and timely administration of an anti-malarial treatment to residents of compounds with confirmed malaria cases did not significantly decrease malaria prevalence and incidence in communities where malaria prevalence was already low. Treatment coverage and adherence was very high. Results were strongly influenced by the lower-than-expected malaria prevalence, and by no clinical cases in villages with asymptomatic malaria-infected individuals.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02878200. Registered 25 August 2016. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02878200 .

Journal: Malaria Journal
ISSN: 1475-2875
Issue: 1
Volume: 20
Publication year:2021
Keywords:Reactive treatment, Malaria prevalence, Asymptomatic infection, Village health worker, LOW-TRANSMISSION, ELIMINATION, SURVEILLANCE, COVERAGE, REGION, ZAMBIA, AREAS