Background: We evaluated existing data on the prophylactic efficacy of atovaquone-proguanil (AP) in order to determine whether prophylaxis in travellers can be discontinued on the day of return from a malaria-endemic area instead of seven days after return as per currently recommended post-travel schedule.
Methods: PubMed and Embase databases were searched to identify relevant studies. This PROSPERO-registered systematic review followed PRISMA guidelines. The search strategy included terms or synonyms relevant to AP combined with terms to identify articles relating to prophylactic use of AP and inhibitory and half-life properties of AP. Studies considered for inclusion were: randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, quasi-experimental studies, open-label trials, patient-control studies, cross-sectional studies; as well as case-series and non-clinical studies. Data on study design, characteristics of participants, interventions, and outcomes were extracted. Primary outcomes considered relevant were prophylactic efficacy and prolonged inhibitory activity and half-life properties of AP.
Results: The initial search identified 1,482 publications, of which 40 were selected based on screening. Following full text review, 32 studies were included and categorized into two groups, namely studies in support of the current post-travel regimen (with a total of 2,866 subjects) and studies in support of an alternative regimen (with a total of 533 subjects).
Conclusion: There is limited direct and indirect evidence to suggest that an abbreviated post-travel regimen for AP may be effective. Proguanil, however, has a short half-life and is essential for the synergistic effect of the combination. Stopping AP early may result in mono-prophylaxis with atovaquone and possibly select for atovaquone-resistant parasites. Furthermore, the quality of the studies in support of the current post-travel regimen outweighs the quality of the studies in support of an alternative short, post-travel regimen, and the total sample size of the studies to support stopping AP early comprises a small percentage of the total sample size of the studies performed to establish the efficacy of the current AP regimen. Additional research is required - especially from studies evaluating impact on malaria parasitaemia and clinical illness and conducted among travellers in high malaria risk settings - before an abbreviated regimen can be recommended in current practice.
Prospero registration number: CRD42017055244.
Keywords: Atovaquone-proguanil; abbreviated regime; chemoprophylaxis; systematic review.
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