Giving infants regular doses of medicine preempts malaria in the short term, but experience has shown that the children become particularly vulnerable to the illness once they stop taking the drugs. A new study finds that giving a common antimalarial drug to babies only intermittently during their first year works better. While getting the drug, the infants resist the bloodborne parasites that cause the illness, and the children don't appear as vulnerable later.
Scientists working in a part of southern Tanzania that's rife with malaria gave 332 infants a tablet of sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine–crushed and mixed with water–when the babies were 2, 3, and 9 months old. The team gave 329 others crushed inert tablets. The scientists had randomly assigned the babies to one of the two groups at birth. Of the babies, 77 percent received their three scheduled treatments or placebos.