Effects of revised diagnostic recommendations on malaria treatment practices across age groups in Kenya.
Zurovac D., Njogu J., Akhwale W., Hamer DH., Larson BA., Snow RW.
OBJECTIVE: The recent change of treatment policy for uncomplicated malaria from sulfadoxine-pyrime-thamine to artemether-lumefantrine (AL) in Kenya was accompanied by revised malaria diagnosis recommendations promoting presumptive antimalarial treatment in young children and parasitological diagnosis in patients 5 years and older. We evaluated the impact of these age-specific recommendations on routine malaria treatment practices 4-6 months after AL treatment was implemented. METHODS: Cross-sectional, cluster sample survey using quality-of-care assessment methods in all government facilities in four Kenyan districts. Analysis was restricted to the 64 facilities with malaria diagnostics and AL available on the survey day. Main outcome measures were antimalarial treatment practices for febrile patients stratified by age, use of malaria diagnostic tests, and test result. RESULTS: Treatment practices for 706 febrile patients (401 young children and 305 patients > or =5 years) were evaluated. 43.0% of patients > or =5 years and 25.9% of children underwent parasitological malaria testing (87% by microscopy). AL was prescribed for 79.7% of patients > or =5 years with positive test results, for 9.7% with negative results and for 10.9% without a test. 84.6% of children with positive tests, 19.2% with negative tests, and 21.6% without tests were treated with AL. At least one antimalarial drug was prescribed for 75.0% of children and for 61.3% of patients > or =5 years with a negative test result. CONCLUSIONS: Despite different recommendations for patients below and above 5 years of age, malaria diagnosis and treatment practices were similar in the two age groups. Parasitological diagnosis was under-used in older children and adults, and young children were still tested. Use of AL was low overall and alternative antimalarials were commonly prescribed; but AL prescribing largely followed the results of malaria tests. Malaria diagnosis recommendations differing between age groups appear complex to implement; further strengthening of diagnosis and treatment practices under AL policy is required.