Mass drug administration for malaria


Malaria is the most important mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, accounting for an estimated 660,000 deaths annually. Fortunately, malaria is both preventable and treatable. Several malaria control tools currently exist, and new and innovative approaches are continually under development.

The administration of drugs against malaria to whole populations, termed mass drug administration (MDA), was a component of many malaria elimination programmes in the 1950s, and is once again attracting interest as a malaria elimination tool. As a consequence, it is important to review the currently available literature in order to assess the potential for this strategy to reduce malaria burden and transmission, and to identify gaps in our understanding.

This review assessed the impact of MDA on several malaria-specific outcome measures. Thirty-two studies were included in this review, from sites in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

The review found that although MDA can reduce the initial risk of malaria-specific outcomes, these reductions are often not sustained. However, a few studies conducted on small islands or in highland areas did show sustained impact more than six months after MDA.

Adverse events were inadequately addressed in most studies. Notable severe drug reactions, including haemolysis, haemoglobinuria, severe anaemia and death, were reported with 8-aminoquinoline plus schizonticide drug co-administration, while severe skin reactions were reported with sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine plus artesunate plus primaquine.

Assessing the true impact of MDA programmes can be a challenge due to the heterogeneity of the study methods employed. Nonetheless, this review can help guide future antimalarial MDA interventions and their evaluation.


Poirot, E.; Skarbinski, J.; Sinclair, D.; Kachur, S.P.; Slutsker, L.; Hwang, J. Mass drug administration for malaria. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2013) Issue 12, Art. No.: CD008846. [DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008846.pub2]

Mass drug administration for malaria

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