Intermittent preventive treatment, the administration of a full course of an anti-malarial treatment to a population at risk at specified time points regardless of whether or not they are known to be infected, is now a recommended approach to the prevention of malaria in pregnancy and is being explored as a potential way of preventing malaria in infants. However, in many malaria endemic areas, the main burden of malaria is in older children and increasing use of insecticide treated bednets is likely to increase further the proportion of episodes of malaria that occur in older children. Recently, it has been shown in Senegal and in Mali that intermittent preventive treatment given to older children during the malaria transmission season can be remarkably effective in preventing malaria. This approach to malaria control is likely to be most effective in areas with a high level of malaria transmission concentrated in a short period of the year. However, several issues need to be addressed before intermittent preventive treatment in children can be advocated for use in malaria control programmes. These include: (1) determination of whether intermittent preventive treatment adds to the protection afforded by other control measures such as insecticide-treated bednets; (2) whether an effective and sustainable delivery system can be found; (3) choice of drug to be used; (4) optimum timing of drug administration; (5) the requisite interval between treatments. The potential benefits of intermittent preventive treatment in children are substantial; more research is needed to determine if this is a practical approach to malaria control.
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