Single-dose oral ciprofloxacin prophylaxis as a response to a meningococcal meningitis epidemic in the African meningitis belt: A 3-arm, open-label, cluster-randomized trial

PLoS Med. 2018 Jun 26;15(6):e1002593. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002593. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Background: Antibiotic prophylaxis for contacts of meningitis cases is not recommended during outbreaks in the African meningitis belt. We assessed the effectiveness of single-dose oral ciprofloxacin administered to household contacts and in village-wide distributions on the overall attack rate (AR) in an outbreak of meningococcal meningitis.

Methods and findings: In this 3-arm, open-label, cluster-randomized trial during a meningococcal meningitis outbreak in Madarounfa District, Niger, villages notifying a suspected case were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to standard care (the control arm), single-dose oral ciprofloxacin for household contacts within 24 hours of case notification, or village-wide distribution of ciprofloxacin within 72 hours of first case notification. The primary outcome was the overall AR of suspected meningitis after inclusion. A random sample of 20 participating villages was enrolled to document any changes in fecal carriage prevalence of ciprofloxacin-resistant and extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Enterobacteriaceae before and after the intervention. Between April 22 and May 18, 2017, 49 villages were included: 17 to the control arm, 17 to household prophylaxis, and 15 to village-wide prophylaxis. A total of 248 cases were notified in the study after the index cases. The AR was 451 per 100,000 persons in the control arm, 386 per 100,000 persons in the household prophylaxis arm (t test versus control p = 0.68), and 190 per 100,000 persons in the village-wide prophylaxis arm (t test versus control p = 0.032). The adjusted AR ratio between the household prophylaxis arm and the control arm was 0.94 (95% CI 0.52-1.73, p = 0.85), and the adjusted AR ratio between the village-wide prophylaxis arm and the control arm was 0.40 (95% CI 0.19‒0.87, p = 0.022). No adverse events were notified. Baseline carriage prevalence of ciprofloxacin-resistant Enterobacteriaceae was 95% and of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae was >90%, and did not change post-intervention. One limitation of the study was the small number of cerebrospinal fluid samples sent for confirmatory testing.

Conclusions: Village-wide distribution of single-dose oral ciprofloxacin within 72 hours of case notification reduced overall meningitis AR. Distributions of ciprofloxacin could be an effective tool in future meningitis outbreak responses, but further studies investigating length of protection, effectiveness in urban settings, and potential impact on antimicrobial resistance patterns should be carried out.

Trial registration: NCT02724046.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ciprofloxacin / therapeutic use*
  • Epidemics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Meningitis, Meningococcal / drug therapy*
  • Meningitis, Meningococcal / epidemiology*
  • Meningitis, Meningococcal / microbiology
  • Neisseria meningitidis / drug effects
  • Neisseria meningitidis / physiology
  • Niger / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ciprofloxacin

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.83576bv

Grant support

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provided funding for the trial. The funder helped to design and plan the study, and participated in the writing of this report, but had no role in data collection and analysis.