Malaria countermeasures for pregnant women underutilized, study says

A recent study published in The Lancet has found that the methods used to protect pregnant women from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa are underutilized and that this coverage needs to be scaled up.

The study was conducted by a team of international researchers led by the Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium and funded by the Consortium and the Wellcome Trust.

While 45 of 47 SSA countries had an insecticide treated net policy for pregnant women, estimated coverage was only 17 percent among the 28 million pregnancies at risk of malaria in the 32 countries with information.

Of the 39 countries with an intermittent preventive treatment, 25 percent of pregnant women received some IPTp, even though 77 percent of them visited an antenatal clinic, which is the main delivery channel for pregnant women receiving ITNs and IPTp.

The World Health Organization has recommended IPTp and ITNs to prevent and control malaria due to the devastating consequences that malaria infection can have for both mother and child in pregnancy.

"Ten years after the Abuja declaration, it is encouraging that the majority of malaria endemic countries in SSA have now adopted ITNs and IPTp and the number of countries with nationally representative coverage data has increased to 40 out of 47," Professor Feiko ter Kuile, MiP Consortium leader and study co-author, said. "However, very few countries have reached either the Abuja targets or their own policy ambition, and countries are even further away from the more recent RBM targets set for 2010.

"In addition, coverage was lowest in areas with high malaria transmission, where the need is greatest. In general, low coverage with IPTp and ITNs contrasts with correspondingly high ANC attendance, indicating that there are missed opportunities for coverage and the attainment and maintenance of high coverage of ITNs remains challenging."