Background: The World Health Organization advocates 2-3 doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) for intermittent preventive treatment of malaria (SP IPTp). The optimal number of doses and the consequences of single-dose therapy remain unclear.
Methods: Data were from a randomized, controlled study of human immunodeficiency virus-positive Zambian women comparing monthly versus 2-dose SP IPTp. We compared maternal and neonatal birth outcomes as a function of how many doses the mothers received (1 to > or =4 doses).
Results: Of 387 deliveries, 34 received 1 dose of SP. Single-dose SP was significantly associated with higher proportions of maternal anemia, peripheral and cord blood parasitemia, infant prematurity, and low birth weight. SP conferred dose-dependent benefits, particularly in the transition from 1 to 2 doses of SP. Women randomized to the standard 2-dose regimen were much more likely to receive only 1 dose than were women randomized to monthly IPT (relative risk, 16.4 [95% confidence interval, 4.0-68.3]).
Conclusions: Single-dose SP was a common result of trying to implement the standard 2-dose regimen and was inferior to all other dosing regimens. At a programmatic level, this implies that monthly SP IPTp may ultimately be more effective than the standard regimen by reducing the risk of inadvertently underdosing mothers.