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Effects of Biannual Azithromycin Mass Drug Administration on Malaria in Malawian Children: A Cluster-Randomized Trial.


Reductions in malaria morbidity have been reported following azithromycin mass drug administration (MDA) for trachoma. The recent Macrolides Oraux pour Reduire les Deces avec un Oeil sur la Resistance (MORDOR) trial reported a reduction in child mortality following biannual azithromycin MDA. Here, we investigate the effects of azithromycin MDA on malaria at the MORDOR-Malawi study site. A cluster-randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial, with 15 clusters per arm, was conducted. House-to-house census was updated biannually, and azithromycin or placebo syrup was distributed to children aged 1-59 months for a total of four biannual distributions. At baseline, 12-month, and 24-month follow-up visits, a random sample of 1,200 children was assessed for malaria with thick and thin blood smears and hemoglobin measurement. In the community-level analysis, there was no difference in the prevalence of parasitemia (1.0% lower in azithromycin-treated communities; 95% CI: -8.2 to 6.1), gametocytemia (0.7% lower in azithromycin-treated communities; 95% CI: -2.8 to 1.5), or anemia (1.7% lower in azithromycin-treated communities; 95% CI: -8.1 to 4.6) between placebo and azithromycin communities. Further interrogation of the data at the individual level, both per-protocol (including only those who received treatment 6 months previously) and by intention-to-treat, did not identify differences in parasitemia between treatment arms. In contrast to several previous reports, this study did not show an effect of azithromycin MDA on malaria parasitemia at the community or individual levels.

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