Background: Intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) of malaria is recommended as policy for certain high-risk populations, but not currently for schoolchildren. A cluster-randomized trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of IPT with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) on primary schoolchildren in Jinja, Uganda. Results of the impact of IPT of schoolchildren on community-level transmission have been reported previously. Here, secondary outcomes from a school-based survey are presented.
Methods: Eighty-four clusters (one primary school plus 100 households) were randomized to intervention and control (1:1 ratio). Participants from intervention schools received monthly IPT with DP for up to 6 rounds (June-December 2014). At endline (November-December 2014), randomly selected children from all 84 schools were surveyed (13 per school) and thick blood smears were done. Those with fever or history of fever were tested with rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria. Haemoglobin was measured in every fifth participant. Outcome measures included prevalence of asexual parasites and gametocytes (by microscopy), and prevalence of anaemia. Prevalence outcomes were analysed using generalized linear Poisson models with log link function, incorporating a cluster-level random intercept and quantified using prevalence risk ratios.
Results: Among 23,280 students listed on the 42 intervention school registers, 10,079 (43.3%) aged 5-20 years were enrolled into the IPT intervention and received at least one dose of DP; of these, 9286 (92.1%) received at least one full (3-day) course. In total, 1092 children were enrolled into the final school survey (546 per arm) and had a thick blood smear done; of these, 255 had haemoglobin measured (129 intervention, 126 control). Children in the intervention arm were less likely to have asexual parasites (9.2% intervention vs 44.1% control, adjusted risk ratio [aRR] 0.22 [95% CI 0.16-0.30] p < 0.001), gametocytes (3.1% intervention vs 9.5% control, aRR 0.34 [95% CI 0.20-0.56] p < 0.001), fever (20.2% intervention vs 56.2% control, aRR 0.35 [95% CI 0.25-0.50] p < 0.001), or symptomatic malaria (5.1% intervention vs 35.7% control, aRR 0.14 [95% CI 0.08-0.26] p < 0.001). Prevalence of anaemia and mean haemoglobin were similar in both study arms.
Conclusions: School-aged children are a major reservoir of malaria parasites. Delivering IPT to schoolchildren would benefit individual children and may reduce transmission. School-based IPT could help to intensify malaria control toward elimination, and should be considered for policies and programmes. Trial registration Clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02009215), Registered 11 December 2013. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02009215.
Keywords: Cluster-randomised trial; Dihydroartemisinin–piperaquine; Intermittent preventive treatment; Malaria; Schoolchildren.