Malaria treatment study in school-aged children

In collaboration with the Global Health Institute of UAntwerpen, staff of the National Institute for Medical Research, Tanga, has initiated a clinical research study in schools in north eastern Tanzania. During several visits, our team test 1550 enrolled school children for malaria, haemoglobin, soil transmitted helminths, as well as cognitive and psychomotor ability.

Malaria is a major public health problem in Tanzania, highly affecting school children. It has a considerable impact on their attendance and cognitive abilities. In high transmission settings, up to 70% of school-aged children harbour malaria parasites without showing any clinical symptoms. Thus, epidemiologically, they contribute to a substantial reservoir for malaria transmission.

Intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) of pregnant women, as well as seasonal malaria chemoprevention in children under-five, have been implemented in several sub-Saharan countries and have proven to be highly effective. However, none of the IPT strategies is targeting school-aged children.

Our study intervention is as follows; treatments are given three times a year during the first year. Study drugs are being provided at schools through trained school health teachers, who normally administer drugs for helminthic infection to school children. During a second non-interventional year possible rebound effects are assessed.  In addition, the study also assesses the acceptability, cost-effectiveness and feasibility of IPTsc as part of a more comprehensive school children health package.

The suggested strategy may provide effective protection against malaria morbidity, anaemia and could contribute to the burden reduction in endemic countries.

This study is funded by the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR-UOS), Belgium, TEAM initiative, grant number TZ2017TEA451A102.