Overview of preventive therapies

Last update: 1 May 2017

Preventive therapies for malaria control include the use of a full treatment course of an antimalarial medicine given to vulnerable populations, particularly pregnant women, infants and children at designated time points during the period of maximal risk to prevent the consequences of malaria infections. The treatment course is given regardless of whether the recipient is infected with malaria.

Preventive chemotherapies are key elements of the comprehensive package of malaria prevention and control measures recommended by WHO. This is different from chemoprophylaxis for travellers or non-immune individuals, which is the use of subtherapeutic doses of antiamalarial medicine to prevent the development of malaria.

WHO-recommended preventive therapies include intermittent preventive treatment of pregnant women (IPTp), intermittent preventive treatment of infants (IPTi), and seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). The objective of these interventions is to prevent malarial illness by maintaining therapeutic drug levels in the blood throughout the period of greatest malarial risk.

IPTp should be given to pregnant women at antenatal visits in areas with moderate to high malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. IPTi should be delivered to infants through immunization services in areas with moderate to high malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. SMC is recommended to be administered to children under 5 years of age during the malaria season in areas of highly seasonal malaria transmission across the Sahel sub-region of Africa.

These interventions have been shown to be highly cost-effective and safe for preventing malaria in the target populations. They target specific population groups in specific transmission settings in Africa and thus reflect the current paradigm shift in malaria control from a one-size-fits-all approach to targeting strategies for specific populations and/or locations to maximize effectiveness.

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