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Preventive drugs protect children

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12:48pm, November 29, 2004
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From Miami, Fla., at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Giving children a course of antimalarial drugs during the rainy season in malaria zones prevents many from contracting the mosquito-borne disease, researchers report. Since there is no established malaria vaccine, this approach might provide a viable strategy for prevention, says Brian Greenwood, an internist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases.

At the start of the 2002 rainy season in Senegal, researchers gave 1,200 children under age 5 either three monthly doses of the antimalarial drugs artesunate and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine or placebo pills. After the rains ended, the scientists found that 203 of the children getting placebos had come down with malaria, but only 32 of the drug-treated children had, says Badara Cissé, Greenwood's colleague at the London School.

Senegal is planning a similar trial that will include 59,000 children, Cissé says. Three doses of the two medications cost slightly more than $2 per child.

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