Mwayiwawo Madanitsa 1 , 2 , Linda Kalilani 1 , Victor Mwapasa 1 , Anna M. van Eijk 2 , Carole Khairallah 2 , Doreen Ali 3 , Cheryl Pace 2 , James Smedley 2 , Kyaw-Lay Thwai 4 , Brandt Levitt 5 , Duolao Wang 2 , Arthur Kang’ombe 2 , Brian Faragher 2 , Steve M. Taylor 4 , 6 , 7 , Steve Meshnick 4 , Feiko O. ter Kuile 2 , *
13 September 2016
In Africa, most plasmodium infections during pregnancy remain asymptomatic, yet are associated with maternal anemia and low birthweight. WHO recommends intermittent preventive therapy in pregnancy with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP). However, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) efficacy is threatened by high-level parasite resistance. We conducted a trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of scheduled intermittent screening with malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and treatment of RDT-positive women with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) as an alternative strategy to IPTp-SP.
This was an open-label, two-arm individually randomized superiority trial among HIV-seronegative women at three sites in Malawi with high SP resistance. The intervention consisted of three or four scheduled visits in the second and third trimester, 4 to 6 wk apart. Women in the IPTp-SP arm received SP at each visit. Women in the intermittent screening and treatment in pregnancy with DP (ISTp-DP) arm were screened for malaria at every visit and treated with DP if RDT-positive. The primary outcomes were adverse live birth outcome (composite of small for gestational age, low birthweight [<2,500 g], or preterm birth [<37 wk]) in paucigravidae (first or second pregnancy) and maternal or placental plasmodium infection at delivery in multigravidae (third pregnancy or higher). Analysis was by intention to treat.
Between 21 July 2011 and 18 March 2013, 1,873 women were recruited (1,155 paucigravidae and 718 multigravidae). The prevalence of adverse live birth outcome was similar in the ISTp-DP (29.9%) and IPTp-SP (28.8%) arms (risk difference = 1.08% [95% CI −3.25% to 5.41%]; all women: relative risk [RR] = 1.04 [95% CI 0.90–1.20], p = 0.625; paucigravidae: RR = 1.10 [95% CI 0.92–1.31], p = 0.282; multigravidae: RR = 0.92 [95% CI 0.71–1.20], p = 0.543). The prevalence of malaria at delivery was higher in the ISTp-DP arm (48.7% versus 40.8%; risk difference = 7.85%, [95% CI 3.07%–12.63%]; all women: RR = 1.19 [95% CI 1.07–1.33], p = 0.007; paucigravidae: RR = 1.16 [95% CI 1.04–1.31], p = 0.011; multigravidae: RR = 1.29 [95% CI 1.02–1.63], p = 0.037). Fetal loss was more common with ISTp-DP (2.6% versus 1.3%; RR = 2.06 [95% CI 1.01–4.21], p = 0.046) and highest among non-DP-recipients (3.1%) in the ISTp-DP arm. Limitations included the open-label design.
Scheduled screening for malaria parasites with the current generation of RDTs three to four times during pregnancy as part of focused antenatal care was not superior to IPTp-SP in this area with high malaria transmission and high SP resistance and was associated with higher fetal loss and more malaria at delivery.
In an open-label randomized controlled trial, Feiko O. ter Kuile and colleagues found that ISTp-DP was not superior to IPTp-SP in an area with high malaria transmission and high SP resistance.
Malaria infection during the course of pregnancy can have devastating consequences on the mother and unborn child.
Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with the antimalarial sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is one of the main interventions to protect pregnant women during pregnancy in malaria endemic areas in sub-Saharan Africa.
The effectiveness of SP, however, is threatened by increasing resistance of the malaria parasite to this drug in east and southern Africa.
We conducted this study to evaluate if an alternative strategy consisting of screening pregnant women for malaria with rapid diagnostic tests at regular intervals during pregnancy and then treating the test-positive women with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) would reduce the risk of malaria infection and the adverse consequences to the mother and newborn. This strategy is called intermittent screening and treatment in pregnancy (ISTp).
Our team conducted a two-arm, open-label trial to compare the effect of the new ISTp with DP (ISTp-DP) strategy against the existing IPTp with SP (IPTp-SP) strategy (the control arm) in 1,873 pregnant women in southern Malawi, where almost all of the malaria parasites were highly resistant to SP.
We found that the rate of malaria infection was high in both groups and that the new ISTp-DP strategy was not any better than the existing IPTp-SP strategy in terms of reducing malaria infection or improving pregnancy outcomes; in fact, women in the ISTp-DP arm had more malaria than women in the IPTp-SP arm.
ISTp-DP with the current generation of rapid diagnostic tests is not a viable alternative strategy to replace IPTp-SP in malaria endemic areas in sub-Saharan Africa, despite the high levels of resistance to SP.
IPTp with SP should still be used as one of the interventions against malaria in pregnancy in sub-Saharan Africa.
Further studies to explore alternative drugs that can replace SP for IPTp will be required in these areas of high SP resistance.