The intermittent use of preventive antimalarial drugs can be beneficial in curbing the spread of the disease in children, according to the results of a study released Tuesday.
Trials conducted in Mali and Burkina Faso showed that this type of treatment during the malaria transmission season could reduce infection rates by between 70 and 85 percent.
The two randomized controlled trials each involved more than 3,000 children who were treated with intermittently with the antimalarial drugs sulphadoxine pyrimethamine and amodiaquine.
The treatment "provided substantial additional protection against episodes of clinical malaria, severe malaria, and all-cause hospital admissions," said the study reported in the Public Library of Science journal.
The drug treatment "adds to the benefit of sleeping under bednets" the report said, adding that "that this public health intervention is best delivered by community-based, volunteer village health workers."
The authors of the Burkina Faso study wrote that the results offer "strong evidence to support the integration of (intermittent preventive treatment for children) into malaria control strategies in areas of seasonal malaria transmission."
The authors of the study in Mali arrived at a similar conclusion, saying: "These findings indicate that (the drugs) could make a valuable contribution to malaria control in areas of seasonal malaria transmission alongside other interventions."
The research was led by Diadier Diallo from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Amadou Konate from the Centre National de Recherche et de Formation sur le Paludisme in Ouagadougou; and Alassane Dicko from the Malaria Research and Training Centre in Mali.
A third study in Gambia, also noted in the journal, indicated administering the drugs by community-based, volunteer village health workers was more effective and less costly than delivery by reproductive and child health teams run by the Ministry of Health.
The disease killed an estimated 781,000 people in 2009 - including about 650,000 children aged under five - but that figure has been reduced from 985,000 in 2000, the World Health Organization said recently.
International spending in the war on malaria is predicted to peak at 1.8 billion dollars in 2010, but WHO estimates that about six billion dollars a year is needed to wipe out the disease.