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Cahiers d'études et de recherches francophones / Santé

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Parental administration of unprescribed antimalarial drugs to treat febrile children in Gabon Volume 21, issue 3, Juil-Août-Sept

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Université des Sciences de la Santé Faculté de Médecine Département de Parasitologie-Mycologie BP 4009, Libreville Gabon

Resistance by Plasmodium falciparum to antimalarial drugs has strongly hampered strategies for malaria control and elimination. Therefore, one of the goals of the World Health Organisation's new malaria control strategies is the rational and appropriate use of antimalarial drugs and in particular of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACTs), currently used for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria; in order to delay the appearance of drug-resistant parasites. The unprescribed use of antimalarial drugs (self medication and parental administration to children) is a key component in the development of antimalarial drug resistance and must be controlled among patients living in malaria-endemic areas. The aim of our study was to estimate the frequency of this parental administration among febrile children and to identify the specific drugs used. Data were collected in two studies evaluating the proportion of malaria cases and the performance of rapid drug tests among febrile children seen in 2008-2009 at 3 hospitals, one in a rural area, one in an urban area, and the third in a semi-urban area. This parental medication administration was found among 21.4% of the 2543 children included in the studies. It was most common at the rural hospital (29%), which is also where malaria prevalence was highest (39%). Of the 548 children “medicated”, 421, that is, almost 80%, were not infected. The antimalarial drugs used most frequently were ACTs (43.8%) and quinine (12%). In Gabon, as in other sub-Saharan countries, use of antimalarial drugs before consultation is common and is an obstacle to malaria control. Therefore, improving the rational use of these drugs by the population requires active outreach to the community about the risks of unprescribed medication.