Seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) has shown high protective efficacy against clinical malaria and severe malaria in a series of clinical trials. We evaluated the effectiveness of SMC treatments against clinical malaria when delivered at scale through national malaria control programmes in 2015 and 2016.
Methods and findings
Case–control studies were carried out in Mali and The Gambia in 2015, and in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Nigeria, and The Gambia in 2016. Children aged 3–59 months presenting at selected health facilities with microscopically confirmed clinical malaria were recruited as cases. Two controls per case were recruited concurrently (on or shortly after the day the case was detected) from the neighbourhood in which the case lived. The primary exposure was the time since the most recent course of SMC treatment, determined from SMC recipient cards, caregiver recall, and administrative records. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) associated with receipt of SMC within the previous 28 days, and SMC 29 to 42 days ago, compared with no SMC in the past 42 days. These ORs, which are equivalent to incidence rate ratios, were used to calculate the percentage reduction in clinical malaria incidence in the corresponding time periods. Results from individual countries were pooled in a random-effects meta-analysis. In total, 2,126 cases and 4,252 controls were included in the analysis. Across the seven studies, the mean age ranged from 1.7 to 2.4 years and from 2.1 to 2.8 years among controls and cases, respectively; 42.2 percent – 50.9 percent and 38.9 percent –46.9 percent of controls and cases, respectively, were male. In all seven individual case–control studies, a high degree of personal protection from SMC against clinical malaria was observed, ranging from 73 percent in Mali in 2016 to 98 percent in Mali in 2015. The overall OR for SMC within 28 days was 0.12 (95 percent CI: 0.06, 0.21; p < 0.001), indicating a protective effectiveness of 88 percent (95 percent CI: 79 percent, 94 percent). Effectiveness against clinical malaria for SMC 29–42 days ago was 61 percent (95 percent CI: 47 percent, 72 percent). Similar results were obtained when the analysis was restricted to cases with parasite density in excess of 5,000 parasites per microlitre: Protective effectiveness 90 percent (95 percent CI: 79 percent, 96 percent; P<0.001), and 59 percent (95 percent CI: 34 percent, 74 percent; P<0.001) for SMC 0–28 days and 29–42 days ago, respectively. Potential limitations include the possibility of residual confounding due to an association between exposure to malaria and access to SMC, or differences in access to SMC between patients attending a clinic and community controls; however, neighbourhood matching of cases and controls, and covariate adjustment, attempted to control for these aspects, and the observed decline in protection over time, consistent with expected trends, argues against a major bias from these sources.
SMC administered as part of routine national malaria control activities provided a very high level of personal protection against clinical malaria over 28 days post-treatment, similar to the efficacy observed in clinical trials. The case–control design used in this study can be used at intervals to ensure SMC treatments remain effective.
Published in PLOS MedicineResearch | SMC
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