The impact on malaria of biannual treatment with azithromycin in children age less than 5 years: A prospective study

Evan M. Bloch, Beatriz Munoz, Zakayo Mrango, Jerusha Weaver, Leonard E.G. Mboera, Tom M. Lietman, David J. Sullivan, Sheila K. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The MORDOR study, a cluster randomized clinical trial, showed that single-dose azithromycin (20 mg/kg) administered biannually for 2 years to preschool children reduced mortality; a study was conducted to determine its effect on clinical symptomatic episodes of malaria as a potential mechanism for mortality benefit. Methods: A randomized control trial (RCT) was conducted, whereby 30 randomly selected communities in Kilosa District, Tanzania were randomized to receive 6-monthly treatment of children ages 1-59 months with single-dose azithromycin (20 mg/kg) vs. placebo. A prospective cohort study was nested within the RCT: children, aged 1 to 35 months at baseline, were randomly selected in each community and evaluated at 6-monthly intervals for 2 years. At each visit, the children were assessed for recent or ongoing fever and anti-malarial treatment; a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) for malaria was performed. The two major outcomes of interest were prevalence of RDT positivity and clinical malaria. The latter was defined as RDT-positivity with fever at time of evaluation and/or reported fever in the 3 days prior to evaluation. Methods that account for correlations at community level and within individuals over time were used to evaluate associations. Results: At baseline, the prevalence rates in the children in the azithromycin and placebo arms were 17.6% vs. 15.5% for RDT positivity (p = 0.76) and 6.1% vs. 4.3% (p = 0.56) for clinical malaria. There was a decline in both RDT-positivity and clinical malaria over time in both arms. The difference by treatment assignment was not significant for clinical malaria; it was significant for RDT-positivity with greater odds of decline in the placebo arm (p = 0.01). Conclusions: Lack of evidence for a significant difference in the prevalence of clinical malaria in children at any visit following treatment suggests that the effect of single-dose azithromycin on malaria is at best transient and limited in scope. Chance overrepresentation of non-seasonal transmission in the communities in the azithromycin arm may account for higher rates of RDT-positivity and less decline over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number284
JournalMalaria journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 23 2019


  • Azithromycin
  • Child mortality
  • Clinical trial
  • Malaria
  • Tanzania

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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