Effect of scheduled antimicrobial and nicotinamide treatment on linear growth in children in rural Tanzania: A factorial randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

PLoS Med. 2021 Sep 28;18(9):e1003617. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003617. eCollection 2021 Sep.


Background: Stunting among children in low-resource settings is associated with enteric pathogen carriage and micronutrient deficiencies. Our goal was to test whether administration of scheduled antimicrobials and daily nicotinamide improved linear growth in a region with a high prevalence of stunting and enteric pathogen carriage.

Methods and findings: We performed a randomized, 2 × 2 factorial, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in the area around Haydom, Tanzania. Mother-child dyads were enrolled by age 14 days and followed with monthly home visits and every 3-month anthropometry assessments through 18 months. Those randomized to the antimicrobial arm received 2 medications (versus corresponding placebos): azithromycin (single dose of 20 mg/kg) at months 6, 9, 12, and 15 and nitazoxanide (3-day course of 100 mg twice daily) at months 12 and 15. Those randomized to nicotinamide arm received daily nicotinamide to the mother (250 mg pills months 0 to 6) and to the child (100 mg sachets months 6 to 18). Primary outcome was length-for-age z-score (LAZ) at 18 months in the modified intention-to-treat group. Between September 5, 2017 and August 31, 2018, 1,188 children were randomized, of whom 1,084 (n = 277 placebo/placebo, 273 antimicrobial/placebo, 274 placebo/nicotinamide, and 260 antimicrobial/nicotinamide) were included in the modified intention-to-treat analysis. The study was suspended for a 3-month period by the Tanzanian National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) because of concerns related to the timing of laboratory testing and the total number of serious adverse events (SAEs); this resulted in some participants receiving their final study assessment late. There was a high prevalence of stunting overall (533/1,084, 49.2%). Mean 18-month LAZ did not differ between groups for either intervention (mean LAZ with 95% confidence interval [CI]: antimicrobial: -2.05 CI -2.13, -1.96, placebo: -2.05 CI -2.14, -1.97; mean difference: 0.01 CI -0.13, 0.11, p = 0.91; nicotinamide: -2.06 CI -2.13, -1.95, placebo: -2.04 CI -2.14, -1.98, mean difference 0.03 CI -0.15, 0.09, p = 0.66). There was no difference in LAZ for either intervention after adjusting for possible confounders (baseline LAZ, age in days at 18-month measurement, ward, hospital birth, birth month, years of maternal education, socioeconomic status (SES) quartile category, sex, whether the mother was a member of the Datoga tribe, and mother's height). Adverse events (AEs) and SAEs were overall similar between treatment groups for both the nicotinamide and antimicrobial interventions. Key limitations include the absence of laboratory measures of pathogen carriage and nicotinamide metabolism to provide context for the negative findings.

Conclusions: In this study, we observed that neither scheduled administration of azithromycin and nitazoxanide nor daily provision of nicotinamide was associated with improved growth in this resource-poor setting with a high force of enteric infections. Further research remains critical to identify interventions toward improved early childhood growth in challenging conditions.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03268902.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Azithromycin / administration & dosage
  • Azithromycin / pharmacology
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / prevention & control
  • Niacinamide / administration & dosage
  • Niacinamide / pharmacology*
  • Nitro Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Nitro Compounds / pharmacology
  • Pregnancy
  • Tanzania
  • Thiazoles / administration & dosage
  • Thiazoles / pharmacology


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Thiazoles
  • Niacinamide
  • Azithromycin
  • nitazoxanide

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03268902
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03268902