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A community perspective on the efficacy of malaria treatment options for children in Lundazi District, Zambia

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In 1996, Zambia's Ministry of Health made sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) available as a second-line antimalarial. SP differs from chloroquine (CQ) in ways that might affect parents' acceptance of the drug, resulting in possible delays in seeking treatment if parents perceive SP as less efficacious. A multifaceted study consisting of a rapid community ethnographic assessment to examine local attitudes and perceptions toward malaria, a 14-day in vivo drug efficacy study comparing clinical and parasitological efficacy of CQ, SP, and SP with paracetamol (PCM) in children under five, and a qualitative study examining caretakers' perceptions of drug efficacy helped to guide implementation of the new drug policy. The rapid ethnographic study indicated that the community was aware of malaria as an illness best treated with modern medicines, particularly CQ. The drug efficacy study demonstrated a 25% level of clinical failures compared to none with SP, and 30% of the children treated with CQ had either RIII or RII parasitological failures whereas none occurred in children treated with SP. Most parents perceived that their children were improving and that the drugs were working. Parents in the SP groups were most pleased and readily accepted SP as a new drug. The addition of PCM did not improve perceptions of SP efficacy, contradicting conventional wisdom regarding the need for direct antipyretic action for parents to perceive a drug as efficacious. The combined results reflected a community that was in the beginning stages of evaluating a new malaria therapy mostly unknown to them. Perceptions of efficacy of CQ were beginning to shift, indicating a readiness for accepting a new drug based on its shown biological efficacy. Parasitological and clinical failure rates reinforced the need to fully implement the changed national policy as soon as possible, and to consider a change in first-line therapy.
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Keywords: Zambia; chloroquine; drug resistance; efficacy; malaria; perceptions; sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Malaria Epidemiology Section, Division of Parasitic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA 2: Tropical Diseases Research Centre, Ndola, Zambia 3: Data Management Activity, Division of Parasitic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA 4: Lundazi District Health Management Team, Lundazi, Zambia

Publication date: 1999-10-01

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