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Anti-Malaria Drugs Help Africa's Women, Babies

Giving these meds in pregnancy improves birth outcomes, study finds

TUESDAY, June 19, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Giving two doses of malaria-preventing drugs to HIV-negative women in Africa during pregnancy offers them and their babies substantial protection against the mosquito-borne illness, a new review of the data shows.

Pregnant women with HIV will require more doses for the same effect, the researchers add.

About 50 million women living in malaria-endemic areas of Africa become pregnant each year, the authors noted.

In their review, scientists in the U.K. analyzed four previous studies that compared two-dose intermittent preventive therapy (IPT) using sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine versus case management of malaria illness/anemia, or a placebo, in African women during their first or second pregnancy.

The data, published in the June 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that IPT reduced the risk of placental malaria by 52 percent, the risk of low birth weight by 29 percent, and the risk of anemia by 10 percent.

The review authors also concluded that monthly IPT reduced rates of placental malaria and low birth rate in HIV-negative women but did not appear to benefit HIV-positive women.

"The deleterious effects of malaria during pregnancy can be substantially reduced by using IPT in pregnant women. Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine is currently the only single-dose long-acting antimalarial drug that has ideal properties (low cost, documented safety, and ease of use) for use as an IPT during pregnancy," wrote a team led by Dr. Feiko ter Kuile, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in England.

"Reserving the use of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for IPT during pregnancy and for infants may reduce drug pressure and may prolong longevity of this valuable drug," the researchers added. "Almost all countries in Africa are taking this course and have either implemented or are in the process of implementing the use of combination therapy for first-line treatment in the population, mostly with artemisinin-based (another type of antimalarial drug) combinations."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about malaria.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, June 19, 2007
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