Maria Lahuerta, Roberta Sutton, Anthony Mansaray, Oliver Eleeza, Brigette Gleason, Adewale Akinjeji, Mohamed F. Jalloh, Mame Toure, Getachew Kassa, Steven R. Meshnick, Molly Deutsch-Feldman, Lauren Parmley, Michael Friedman, Samuel Juana Smith, Miriam Rabkin & Laura Steinhardt
Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infants (IPTi) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is a proven strategy to protect infants against malaria. Sierra Leone is the first country to implement IPTi nationwide. IPTi implementation was evaluated in Kambia, one of two initial pilot districts, to assess quality and coverage of IPTi services.
This mixed-methods evaluation had two phases, conducted 3 (phase 1) and 15–17 months (phase 2) after IPTi implementation. Methods included: assessments of 18 health facilities (HF), including register data abstraction (phases 1 and 2); a knowledge, attitudes and practices survey with 20 health workers (HWs) in phase 1; second-generation sequencing of SP resistance markers (pre-IPTi and phase 2); and a cluster-sample household survey among caregivers of children aged 3–15 months (phase 2). IPTi and vaccination coverage from the household survey were calculated from child health cards and maternal recall and weighted for the complex sampling design. Interrupted time series analysis using a Poisson regression model was used to assess changes in malaria cases at HF before and after IPTi implementation.
Most HWs (19/20) interviewed had been trained on IPTi; 16/19 reported feeling well prepared to administer it. Nearly all HFs (17/18 in phase 1; 18/18 in phase 2) had SP for IPTi in stock. The proportion of parasite alleles with dhps K540E mutations increased but remained below the 50% WHO-recommended threshold for IPTi (4.1% pre-IPTi [95%CI 2–7%]; 11% post-IPTi [95%CI 8–15%], p < 0.01). From the household survey, 299/459 (67.4%) children ≥ 10 weeks old received the first dose of IPTi (versus 80.4% for second pentavalent vaccine, given simultaneously); 274/444 (62.5%) children ≥ 14 weeks old received the second IPTi dose (versus 65.4% for third pentavalent vaccine); and 83/217 (36.4%) children ≥ 9 months old received the third IPTi dose (versus 52.2% for first measles vaccine dose). HF register data indicated no change in confirmed malaria cases among infants after IPTi implementation.
Kambia district was able to scale up IPTi swiftly and provide necessary health systems support. The gaps between IPTi and childhood vaccine coverage need to be further investigated and addressed to optimize the success of the national IPTi programme.