Medical Reading

Malaria Drug Still Effective At Protecting Fetuses From Disease, Losing Efficacy Among Children, Study Says

October 05, 2017

A drug given to pregnant women in malaria-endemic regions in Africa still is effective at protecting fetuses from the effects of the disease but is losing efficacy among children, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Reuters reports. Scott Filler of CDC and colleagues analyzed nine studies published during the last decade and found that sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine still has significant value in preventing malaria-related complications during pregnancy, such as anemia and low birthweight among infants. The authors wrote that the drug has become increasingly ineffective among children with the disease because malaria parasites have acquired resistance to it.

According to the researchers, SP is considered the only viable option for preventing malaria complications during pregnancy because of its low cost, demonstrated safety and ease of use. Public health campaigns encourage pregnant women in malaria-endemic regions to take the drug after their first trimester to prevent complications if they contract the disease, Reuters reports. SP most frequently has been given in two doses during the second and third trimesters, while an alternative approach requires women to take monthly doses beginning in the second trimester.

Pregnant women living with HIV/AIDS are at an increased risk of experiencing negative effects of malaria, and some research suggests that increasing the frequency of SP doses could be beneficial for these women, as well as some HIV-negative women, according to Filler. Each year, about 50 million women in malaria-endemic regions, including 30 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, become pregnant, according to Reuters. Malaria in pregnancy causes up to 200,000 newborn deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization (Dunham, Reuters, 6/19).

The study is available online.

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