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1.  Antiretroviral Treatment Program Retention among HIV-Infected Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e113877.
Background
Retaining patients with HIV infection in care is still a major challenge in sub- Saharan Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the antiretroviral treatment (ART) coverage is low. Monitoring retention is an important tool for evaluating the quality of care.
Methods and Findings
A review of medical records of HIV -infected children was performed in three health facilities in the DRC: the Amo-Congo Health center, the Monkole Clinic in Kinshasa, and the HEAL Africa Clinic in Goma. Medical records of 720 children were included. Kaplan Meier curves were constructed with the probability of retention at 6 months, 1 year, 2 years and 3 years. Retention rates were: 88.2% (95% CI: 85.1%–90.8%) at 6 months; 85% (95% CI: 81.5%–87.6%) at one year; 79.4% (95%CI: 75.5%–82.8%) at two years and 74.7% (95% CI: 70.5%–78.5%) at 3 years. The retention varied across study sites: 88.2%, 66.6% and 92.5% at 6 months; 84%, 59% and 90% at 12 months and 75.7%, 56.3% and 85.8% at 24 months respectively for Amo-Congo/Kasavubu, Monkole facility and HEAL Africa. After multivariable Cox regression four variables remained independently associated with attrition: study site, CD4 cell count <350 cells/µL, children younger than 2 years and children whose caregivers were member of an independent church.
Conclusions
Attrition remains a challenge for pediatric HIV positive patients in ART programs in DRC. In addition, the low coverage of pediatric treatment exacerbates the situation of pediatric HIV/AIDS.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113877
PMCID: PMC4277274  PMID: 25541707
2.  A multi-country study of the “intrapartum stillbirth and early neonatal death indicator” in hospitals in low-resource settings 
Objective
To determine the feasibility of introducing a simple indicator of quality of obstetric and neonatal care and to determine the proportion of potentially avoidable perinatal deaths in hospitals in low-income countries.
Methods
Between September 1, 2011, and February 29, 2012, data were collected from women who had a term pregnancy and were admitted to the labor ward of 1 of 6 hospitals in 4 low-income countries. Fetal heart tones on admission were monitored, and demographic and birth data were recorded.
Results
Data were obtained for 3555 women and 3593 neonates (including twins). The doptone was used on 97% of women admitted. The overall perinatal mortality rate was 34 deaths per 1000 deliveries. Of the perinatal deaths, 40%–45% occurred in the hospital and were potentially preventable by better hospital care.
Conclusion
The results demonstrated that it is possible to accurately determine fetal viability on admission via a doptone. Implementation of doptone use, coupled with a concise data record, might form the basis of a low-cost and sustainable program to monitor and evaluate efforts to improve quality of care and ultimately might to help to reduce the in-hospital component of perinatal mortality in low-income countries.
doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2013.04.008
PMCID: PMC3893914  PMID: 23796259
Doptone; Fetal heart tones; Hospital-based perinatal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Perinatal mortality; Stillbirth
3.  Independent Lineages of Highly Sulfadoxine-Resistant Plasmodium falciparum Haplotypes, Eastern Africa 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(7):1140-1148.
Parasites with increased resistance to sulfadoxine might undermine malaria control measures.
Sulfadoxine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum undermines malaria prevention with sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. Parasites with a highly resistant mutant dihydropteroate synthase (dhps) haplotype have recently emerged in eastern Africa; they negated preventive benefits of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine, and might exacerbate placental malaria. We explored emerging lineages of dhps mutant haplotypes in Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania by using analyses of genetic microsatellites flanking the dhps locus. In Malawi, a triple-mutant dhps SGEG (mutant amino acids are underlined) haplotype emerged in 2010 that was closely related to pre-existing double-mutant SGEA haplotypes, suggesting local origination in Malawi. When we compared mutant strains with parasites from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania by multiple independent analyses, we found that SGEG parasites were partitioned into separate lineages by country. These findings support a model of local origination of SGEG dhps haplotypes, rather than geographic diffusion, and have implications for investigations of emergence and effects of parasite drug resistance.
doi:10.3201/eid2007.131720
PMCID: PMC4073871  PMID: 24960247
malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; parasites; sulfadoxine; drug resistance; lineages; genetics; haplotypes; population; eastern Africa
4.  Genetic Evidence of Importation of Drug-Resistant Plasmodium falciparum to Guatemala from the Democratic Republic of the Congo 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(6):932-940.
Molecular markers and population genetics were effective tracking tools.
Imported malaria threatens control and elimination efforts in countries that have low rates of transmission. In 2010, an outbreak of Plasmodium falciparum malaria was reported among United Nations peacekeeping soldiers from Guatemala who had recently returned from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Epidemiologic evidence suggested that the soldiers were infected in the DRC, but local transmission could not be ruled out in all cases. We used population genetic analyses of neutral microsatellites to determine the outbreak source. Genetic relatedness was compared among parasites found in samples from the soldiers and parasite populations collected in the DRC and Guatemala; parasites identified in the soldiers were more closely related to those from the DRC. A phylogenetic clustering analysis confirms this identification with >99.9% confidence. Thus, results support the hypothesis that the soldiers likely imported malaria from the DRC. This study demonstrates the utility of molecular genotyping in outbreak investigations.
doi:10.3201/eid2006.131204
PMCID: PMC4036788  PMID: 24856348
Malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; protozoan; parasite; Anopheles mosquito; microsatellites; molecular genotyping; drug-resistant; chloroquine phosphate; antimalarial; Guatemala; Democratic Republic of the Congo
5.  Histopathologies, Immunolocalization, and a Glycan Binding Screen Provide Insights into Plasmodium falciparum Interactions with the Human Placenta1 
Biology of Reproduction  2013;88(6):154.
ABSTRACT
During pregnancy, Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes cytoadhere to the placenta. Infection is likely initiated at two sites where placental trophoblasts contact maternal blood: 1) via syncytiotrophoblast (STB), a multicellular transporting and biosynthetic layer that forms the surface of chorionic villi and lines the intervillous space, and 2) through invasive cytotrophoblasts, which line uterine vessels that divert blood to the placenta. Here, we investigated mechanisms of infected erythrocyte sequestration in relationship to the microanatomy of the maternal-fetal interface. Histological analyses revealed STB denudation in placental malaria, which brought the stromal cores of villi in direct contact with maternal blood. STB denudation was associated with hemozoin deposition (P = 0.01) and leukocyte infiltration (P = 0.001) and appeared to be a feature of chronic placental malaria. Immunolocalization of infected red blood cell receptors (CD36, ICAM1/CD54, and chondroitin sulfate A) in placentas from uncomplicated pregnancies showed that STB did not stain, while the underlying villous stroma was immunopositive. Invasive cytotrophoblasts expressed ICAM1. In malaria, STB denudation exposed CD36 and chondroitin sulfate A in the villous cores to maternal blood, and STB expressed ICAM1. Finally, we investigated infected erythrocyte adherence to novel receptors by screening an array of 377 glycans. Infected erythrocytes bound Lewis antigens that immunolocalized to STB. Our results suggest that P. falciparum interactions with STB-associated Lewis antigens could initiate placental malaria. Subsequent pathologies, which expose CD36, ICAM1, and chondroitin sulfate A, might propagate the infection.
Malaria-associated pathological changes expose previously masked placental antigens that may facilitate Plasmodium falciparum cytoadhesion to the placenta; novel placental glycans are also positioned to support cytoadhesion.
doi:10.1095/biolreprod.112.106195
PMCID: PMC4070867  PMID: 23575149
placenta; pregnancy; stroma; syncytiotrophoblast; trophoblast
6.  WHO multicentre study for the development of growth standards from fetal life to childhood: the fetal component 
Background
In 2006 WHO presented the infant and child growth charts suggested for universal application. However, major determinants for perinatal outcomes and postnatal growth are laid down during antenatal development. Accordingly, monitoring fetal growth in utero by ultrasonography is important both for clinical and scientific reasons. The currently used fetal growth references are derived mainly from North American and European population and may be inappropriate for international use, given possible variances in the growth rates of fetuses from different ethnic population groups. WHO has, therefore, made it a high priority to establish charts of optimal fetal growth that can be recommended worldwide.
Methods
This is a multi-national study for the development of fetal growth standards for international application by assessing fetal growth in populations of different ethnic and geographic backgrounds. The study will select pregnant women of high-middle socioeconomic status with no obvious environmental constraints on growth (adequate nutritional status, non-smoking), and normal pregnancy history with no complications likely to affect fetal growth. The study will be conducted in centres from ten developing and industrialized countries: Argentina, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Norway, and Thailand. At each centre, 140 pregnant women will be recruited between 8 + 0 and 12 + 6 weeks of gestation. Subsequently, visits for fetal biometry will be scheduled at 14, 18, 24, 28, 32, 36, and 40 weeks (+/− 1 week) to be performed by trained ultrasonographers.
The main outcome of the proposed study will be the development of fetal growth standards (either global or population specific) for international applications.
Discussion
The data from this study will be incorporated into obstetric practice and national health policies at country level in coordination with the activities presently conducted by WHO to implement the use of the Child Growth Standards.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-157
PMCID: PMC4014086  PMID: 24886101
Fetal growth; Child development; Ultrasound; Growth standards
7.  Stillbirth and early neonatal mortality in rural Central Africa 
Objective
To develop a prospective perinatal registry that characterizes all deliveries, differentiates between stillbirths and early neonatal deaths (ENDs), and determines the ratio of fresh to macerated stillbirths in the northwest Democratic Republic of Congo.
Method
Birth outcomes were obtained from 4 rural health districts.
Results
A total of 8230 women consented, END rate was 32 deaths per 1000 live births, and stillbirth rate was 33 deaths per 1000 deliveries. The majority (75%) of ENDs and stillbirths occurred in neonates weighing 1500 g or more. Odds of stillbirth and END increased in mothers who were single or who did not receive prenatal care, and among premature, low birth weight, or male infants. The ratio of fresh to macerated stillbirths was 4:1.
Conclusion
Neonates weighing 1500 g or more at birth represent a group with a high likelihood of survival in remote areas, making them potentially amenable to targeted intervention packages. The ratio of fresh to macerated stillbirths was approximately 10-fold higher than expected, suggesting a more prominent role for improved intrapartum obstetric interventions.
doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2008.12.012
PMCID: PMC3972762  PMID: 19201402
Africa; Early neonatal death; Fresh and macerated stillbirth; Low-income country
8.  Preconception maternal nutrition: a multi-site randomized controlled trial 
Background
Research directed to optimizing maternal nutrition commencing prior to conception remains very limited, despite suggestive evidence of its importance in addition to ensuring an optimal nutrition environment in the periconceptional period and throughout the first trimester of pregnancy.
Methods/Study design
This is an individually randomized controlled trial of the impact on birth length (primary outcome) of the time at which a maternal nutrition intervention is commenced: Arm 1: ≥ 3 mo preconception vs. Arm 2: 12-14 wk gestation vs. Arm 3: none.
192 (derived from 480) randomized mothers and living offspring in each arm in each of four research sites (Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo). The intervention is a daily 20 g lipid-based (118 kcal) multi-micronutient (MMN) supplement. Women randomized to receive this intervention with body mass index (BMI) <20 or whose gestational weight gain is low will receive an additional 300 kcal/d as a balanced energy-protein supplement. Researchers will visit homes biweekly to deliver intervention and monitor compliance, pregnancy status and morbidity; ensure prenatal and delivery care; and promote breast feeding. The primary outcome is birth length. Secondary outcomes include: fetal length at 12 and 34 wk; incidence of low birth weight (LBW); neonatal/infant anthropometry 0-6 mo of age; infectious disease morbidity; maternal, fetal, newborn, and infant epigenetics; maternal and infant nutritional status; maternal and infant microbiome; gut inflammatory biomarkers and bioactive and nutritive compounds in breast milk. The primary analysis will compare birth Length-for-Age Z-score (LAZ) among trial arms (independently for each site, estimated effect size: 0.35). Additional statistical analyses will examine the secondary outcomes and a pooled analysis of data from all sites.
Discussion
Positive results of this trial will support a paradigm shift in attention to nutrition of all females of child-bearing age.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01883193.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-111
PMCID: PMC4000057  PMID: 24650219
Preconception; Maternal; Nutrition; Birth length; Epigenetics; Microbiome
9.  First look: a cluster-randomized trial of ultrasound to improve pregnancy outcomes in low income country settings 
Background
In high-resource settings, obstetric ultrasound is a standard component of prenatal care used to identify pregnancy complications and to establish an accurate gestational age in order to improve obstetric care. Whether or not ultrasound use will improve care and ultimately pregnancy outcomes in low-resource settings is unknown.
Methods/Design
This multi-country cluster randomized trial will assess the impact of antenatal ultrasound screening performed by health care staff on a composite outcome consisting of maternal mortality and maternal near-miss, stillbirth and neonatal mortality in low-resource community settings. The trial will utilize an existing research infrastructure, the Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research with sites in Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guatemala. A maternal and newborn health registry in defined geographic areas which documents all pregnancies and their outcomes to 6 weeks post-delivery will provide population-based rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, stillbirth, neonatal mortality and morbidity, and health care utilization for study clusters. A total of 58 study clusters each with a health center and about 500 births per year will be randomized (29 intervention and 29 control). The intervention includes training of health workers (e.g., nurses, midwives, clinical officers) to perform ultrasound examinations during antenatal care, generally at 18–22 and at 32–36 weeks for each subject. Women who are identified as having a complication of pregnancy will be referred to a hospital for appropriate care. Finally, the intervention includes community sensitization activities to inform women and their families of the availability of ultrasound at the antenatal care clinic and training in emergency obstetric and neonatal care at referral facilities.
Discussion
In summary, our trial will evaluate whether introduction of ultrasound during antenatal care improves pregnancy outcomes in rural, low-resource settings. The intervention includes training for ultrasound-naïve providers in basic obstetric ultrasonography and then enabling these trainees to use ultrasound to screen for pregnancy complications in primary antenatal care clinics and to refer appropriately.
Trial registration
Clinicaltrials.gov (NCT # 01990625)
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-73
PMCID: PMC3996090  PMID: 24533878
Maternal mortality; Maternal near miss; Perinatal mortality; Obstetric ultrasound; Low-income countries
10.  High Mortality Rates for Very Low Birth Weight Infants in Developing Countries Despite Training 
Pediatrics  2010;126(5):e1072-e1080.
OBJECTIVE
The goal was to determine the effect of training in newborn care and resuscitation on 7-day (early) neonatal mortality rates for very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. The study was designed to test the hypothesis that these training programs would reduce neonatal mortality rates for VLBW infants.
METHODS
Local instructors trained birth attendants from 96 rural communities in 6 developing countries in protocol and data collection, the World Health Organization Essential Newborn Care (ENC) course, and a modified version of the American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP), by using a train-the-trainer model. To test the impact of ENC training, data on infants of 500 to 1499 g were collected by using a before/after, active baseline, controlled study design. A cluster-randomized, controlled trial design was used to test the impact of the NRP.
RESULTS
A total of 1096 VLBW (500–1499 g) infants were enrolled, and 98.5% of live-born infants were monitored to 7 days. All-cause, 7-day neonatal mortality, stillbirth, and perinatal mortality rates were not affected by ENC or NRP training.
CONCLUSIONS
Neither ENC nor NRP training of birth attendants decreased 7-day neonatal, stillbirth, or perinatal mortality rates for VLBW infants born at home or at first-level facilities. Encouragement of delivery in a facility where a higher level of care is available may be preferable when delivery of a VLBW infant is expected.
doi:10.1542/peds.2010-1183
PMCID: PMC3918943  PMID: 20937655
neonatal mortality; perinatal mortality; stillbirth; developing countries; health care systems; very low birth weight; prematurity
11.  Meat consumption is associated with less stunting among toddlers in four diverse low-income settings 
Food and nutrition bulletin  2011;32(3):185-191.
Background
Early growth faltering is common but is difficult to reverse after the first 2 years of life.
Objective
To describe feeding practices and growth in infants and young children in diverse low-income settings prior to undertaking a complementary feeding trial.
Methods
This cross-sectional study was conducted through the Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research in Guatemala, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Pakistan. Feeding questionnaires were administered to convenience samples of mothers of 5- to 9-month old infants and 12- to 24-month-old toddlers. After standardized training, anthropometric measurements were obtained from the toddlers. Following the 2006 World Health Organization Growth Standards, stunting was defined as length-for-age < −2SD, and wasting as weight-for-length < −2SD. Logistic regression was applied to evaluate relationships between stunting and wasting and consumption of meat (including chicken and liver and not including fish).
Results
Data were obtained from 1,500 infants with a mean (± SD) age of 6.9 ± 1.4 months and 1,658 toddlers with a mean age of 17.2 ± 3.5 months. The majority of the subjects in both age groups were breastfed. Less than 25% of the infants received meat regularly, whereas 62% of toddlers consumed these foods regularly, although the rates varied widely among sites. Stunting rate ranged from 44% to 66% among sites; wasting prevalence was less than 10% at all sites. After controlling for covariates, consumption of meat was associated with a reduced likelihood of stunting (OR = 0.64; 95% CI, 0.46 to 0.90).
Conclusions
The strikingly high stunting rates in these toddlers and the protective effect of meat consumption against stunting emphasize the need for interventions to improve complementary feeding practices, beginning in infancy.
PMCID: PMC3918945  PMID: 22073791
Complementary feeding; infant growth; infant nutrition; stunting
12.  Tobacco Use and Secondhand Smoke Exposure During Pregnancy in Two African Countries: Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo 
Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica  2010;89(4):10.3109/00016341003605693.
Objective
To study pregnant women’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors towards tobacco use and secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure, and exposure to advertising for and against tobacco products in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Design
Prospective cross-sectional survey between November 2004 and September 2005.
Setting
Antenatal care clinics in Lusaka, Zambia and Kinshasa, DRC.
Population
Pregnant women in Zambia (909) and the DRC (847).
Methods
Research staff administered a structured questionnaire to pregnant women attending antenatal care clinics.
Main Outcome Measures
Pregnant women’s use of tobacco, exposure to SHS, knowledge of the harms of tobacco, and exposure to advertising for and against tobacco products.
Results
Only about 10% of pregnant women reported having ever tried cigarettes (6.6% Zambia; 14.1% DRC). However, in the DRC, 41.8% of pregnant women had ever tried other forms of tobacco, primarily snuff. About 10% of pregnant women and young children were frequently or always exposed to SHS. Pregnant women’s knowledge of the hazards of smoking and SHS exposure was extremely limited. About 13% of pregnant women had seen or heard advertising for tobacco products in the last 30 days.
Conclusions
Tobacco use and SHS exposure pose serious threats to the health of women, infants, and children. In many African countries, maternal and infant health outcomes are often poor and will likely worsen if maternal tobacco use increases. Our findings suggest that a “window of opportunity” exists to prevent increased tobacco use and SHS exposure of pregnant women in Zambia and the DRC.
doi:10.3109/00016341003605693
PMCID: PMC3875167  PMID: 20230310
13.  EVALUATION OF MEAT AS A FIRST COMPLEMENTARY FOOD FOR BREASTFED INFANTS: IMPACT ON IRON INTAKE & GROWTH 
Nutrition reviews  2011;69(0 1):10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00434.x.
The rationale is considered for promoting the availability of local, affordable, non-fortified food sources of bioavailable iron in developing countries. Intakes of iron from the regular consumption of meat from the age of six months are evaluated with respect to physiological requirements. The paper includes a description of two major randomized controlled trials of meat as a first and regular complementary food that are currently in progress. These trials involve poor communities in Guatemala, Pakistan, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and China.
doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00434.x
PMCID: PMC3875190  PMID: 22043884
iron; meat; complementary feeding
14.  Newborn Care Training and Perinatal Mortality in Communities in Developing Countries 
The New England journal of medicine  2010;362(7):614-623.
Background
Ninety-eight percent of the 3.7 million neonatal deaths and 3.3 million stillbirths per year occur in developing countries, and evaluation of community-based interventions is needed.
Methods
Using a train-the-trainer model, local instructors trained birth attendants from rural communities in six countries (Argentina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, and Zambia) in the World Health Organization Essential Newborn Care course (routine neonatal care, resuscitation, thermoregulation, breastfeeding, kangaroo care, care of the small baby, and common illnesses), and in a modified version of the American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal Resuscitation Program (in depth basic resuscitation), except in Argentina.
The Essential Newborn Care intervention was assessed with a before and after design (N=57, 643). The Neonatal Resuscitation Program intervention was assessed as a cluster randomized controlled trial (N=62,366). The primary outcome was 7-day neonatal mortality.
Results
The 7-day follow-up rate was 99.2%. Following Essential Newborn Care training, there was no significant reduction from baseline in all-cause 7-day neonatal (RR 0.99; CI 0.81, 1.22) or perinatal mortality; there was a significant reduction in the stillbirth rate (RR 0.69; CI 0.54, 0.88; p<0.01). Seven-day neonatal mortality, stillbirth, and perinatal mortality were not reduced in clusters randomized to Neonatal Resuscitation Program training as compared with control clusters.
Conclusions
Seven-day neonatal mortality did not decrease following the introduction of Essential Newborn Care training of community-based birth attendants, although the rate of stillbirths was reduced following this intervention. Subsequent training in the Neonatal Resuscitation Program did not significantly reduce the mortality rates. (clinicaltrials.gov number, NCT00136708).
doi:10.1056/NEJMsa0806033
PMCID: PMC3565382  PMID: 20164485
neonatal mortality; perinatal mortality; developing countries; health systems; effectiveness
15.  Plasmodium falciparum sulfadoxine resistance is geographically and genetically clustered within the DR Congo 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:1165.
Understanding the spatial clustering of Plasmodium falciparum populations can assist efforts to contain drug-resistant parasites and maintain the efficacy of future drugs. We sequenced single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the dihydropteroate synthase gene (dhps) associated with sulfadoxine resistance and 5 microsatellite loci flanking dhps in order to investigate the genetic backgrounds, genetic relatedness, and geographic clustering of falciparum parasites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Resistant haplotypes were clustered into subpopulations: one in the northeast DRC, and the other in the balance of the DRC. Network and clonal lineage analyses of the flanking microsatellites indicate that geographically-distinct mutant dhps haplotypes derive from separate lineages. The DRC is therefore a watershed for haplotypes associated with sulfadoxine resistance. Given the importance of central Africa as a corridor for the spread of antimalarial resistance, the identification of the mechanisms of this transit can inform future policies to contain drug-resistant parasite strains.
doi:10.1038/srep01165
PMCID: PMC3558697  PMID: 23372922
16.  Quantification of the Burden and Consequences of Pregnancy-Associated Malaria in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;204(11):1762-1771.
Background. Pregnancy-associated malaria (PAM) produces poor birth outcomes, but its prevalence is commonly estimated in convenience samples.
Methods. We assessed the prevalence of malaria using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and estimated the consequences of infection on birth outcomes, using specimens from a nationally representative sample of 4570 women of childbearing age (WOCBA) responding to the 2007 Demographic and Health Survey in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Results. Overall, 31.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 29.2–33.1) of WOCBA were parasitemic, which was significantly more common in pregnant (37.2% [31.0–43.5]) than nonpregnant women (30.4% [CI, 28.4–32.5], prevalence ratio [PR] 1.22 [1.02–1.47]). Plasmodium falciparum was highest among pregnant women (36.6% vs 28.8%, PR 1.27 [1.05–1.53]). By contrast, P malariae was less common in pregnant (0.6%) compared with nonpregnant women (2.7%, PR 0.23 [0.09–0.56]). Extrapolation of the prevalence estimate to the population at risk of malaria in DRC suggests 1.015 million births are affected by P falciparum infection annually, and that adherence to preventive measures could prevent up to 549 000 episodes of pregnancy-associated malaria and 47 000 low-birth-weight births.
Conclusions. Pregnancy-associated malaria and its consequences are highly prevalent in the DRC. Increasing the uptake of malaria preventive measures represents a significant opportunity to improve birth outcomes and neonatal health.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jir625
PMCID: PMC3635529  PMID: 21990422
17.  Determinants of male involvement in maternal and child health services in sub-Saharan Africa: a review 
Reproductive Health  2012;9:32.
Introduction
Male participation is a crucial component in the optimization of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services. This is especially so where prevention strategies to decrease Mother-to-Child Transmission (MTCT) of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are sought. This study aims to identify determinants of male partners’ involvement in MCH activities, focusing specifically on HIV prevention of maternal to child transmission (PMTCT) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods
Literature review was conducted using the following data bases: Pubmed/MEDLINE; CINAHL; EMBASE; COCHRANE; Psych INFORMATION and the websites of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the International AIDS Conference and the International Conference on AIDS in Africa (ICASA) 2011.
Results
We included 34 studies in this review, which reported on male participation in MCH and PMTCT services. The majority of studies defined male participation as male involvement solely during antenatal HIV testing. Other studies defined male involvement as any male participation in HIV couple counseling. We identified three main determinants for male participation in PMTCT services: 1) Socio-demographic factors such as level of education, income status; 2) health services related factors such as opening hours of services, behavior of health providers and the lack of space to accommodate male partners; and 3) Sociologic factors such as beliefs, attitudes and communication between men and women.
Conclusion
There are many challenges to increase male involvement/participation in PMTCT services. So far, few interventions addressing these challenges have been evaluated and reported. It is clear however that improvement of antenatal care services by making them more male friendly, and health education campaigns to change beliefs and attitudes of men are absolutely needed.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-9-32
PMCID: PMC3573948  PMID: 23171709
Male involvement; HIV/AIDS; MCH services
18.  Pyronaridine-artesunate granules versus artemether-lumefantrine crushed tablets in children with Plasmodium falciparum malaria: a randomized controlled trial 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:364.
Background
Children are most vulnerable to malaria. A pyronaridine-artesunate pediatric granule formulation is being developed for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria.
Methods
This phase III, multi-center, comparative, open-label, parallel-group, controlled clinical trial included patients aged ≤12 years, bodyweight ≥5 to <25 kg, with a reported history of fever at inclusion or in the previous 24 h and microscopically-confirmed uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria. Patients were randomized (2:1) to pyronaridine-artesunate granules (60/20 mg) once daily or artemether-lumefantrine crushed tablets (20/120 mg) twice daily, both dosed by bodyweight, orally (liquid suspension) for three days.
Results
Of 535 patients randomized, 355 received pyronaridine-artesunate and 180 received artemether-lumefantrine. Day-28 adequate clinical and parasitological response (ACPR), corrected for re-infection using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) genotyping (per-protocol population) was 97.1% (329/339; 95% CI 94.6, 98.6) for pyronaridine-artesunate; 98.8% (165/167; 95% CI 95.7, 99.9) for artemether-lumefantrine. The primary endpoint was achieved: pyronaridine-artesunate PCR-corrected day-28 ACPR was statistically significantly >90% (P < .0001). Pyronaridine-artesunate was non-inferior to artemether-lumefantrine: treatment difference -1.8% (95% CI -4.3 to 1.6). The incidence of drug-related adverse events was 37.2% (132/355) with pyronaridine-artesunate, 44.4% (80/180) with artemether-lumefantrine. Clinical biochemistry results showed similar mean changes versus baseline in the two treatment groups. From day 3 until study completion, one patient in each treatment group had peak alanine aminotransferase (ALT) >3 times the upper limit of normal (ULN) and peak total bilirubin >2xULN (i.e. within the Hy’s law definition).
Conclusions
The pyronaridine-artesunate pediatric granule formulation was efficacious and was non-inferior to artemether-lumefantrine. The adverse event profile was similar for the two comparators. Pyronaridine-artesunate should be considered for inclusion in paediatric malaria treatment programmes.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov: identifier NCT00541385
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-364
PMCID: PMC3566922  PMID: 23113947
Pyronaridine-artesunate; Artemether-lumefantrine; Malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; Pediatric
21.  Plasmodium falciparum parasitaemia in the first half of pregnancy, uterine and umbilical artery blood flow, and foetal growth: a longitudinal Doppler ultrasound study 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:319.
Background
During early pregnancy, the placenta develops to meet the metabolic demands of the foetus. The objective of this analysis was to examine the effect of malaria parasitaemia prior to 20 weeks’ gestation on subsequent changes in uterine and umbilical artery blood flow and intrauterine growth restriction.
Methods
Data were analysed from 548 antenatal visits after 20 weeks’ gestation of 128 women, which included foetal biometric measures and interrogation of uterine and umbilical artery blood flow. Linear mixed effect models estimated the effect of early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia on uterine and umbilical artery resistance indices. Log-binomial models with generalized estimating equations estimated the effect of early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia on the risk of intrauterine growth restriction.
Results
There were differential effects of early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia on uterine artery resistance by nutritional status, with decreased uterine artery resistance among nourished women with early pregnancy malaria and increased uterine artery resistance among undernourished women with early pregnancy malaria. Among primigravidae, early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia decreased umbilical artery resistance in the late third trimester, likely reflecting adaptive villous angiogenesis. In fully adjusted models, primigravidae with early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia had 3.6 times the risk of subsequent intrauterine growth restriction (95% CI: 2.1, 6.2) compared to the referent group of multigravidae with no early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia.
Conclusions
Early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia affects uterine and umbilical artery blood flow, possibly due to alterations in placentation and angiogenesis, respectively. Among primigravidae, early pregnancy malaria parasitaemia increases the risk of intrauterine growth restriction. The findings support the initiation of malaria parasitaemia prevention and control efforts earlier in pregnancy.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-319
PMCID: PMC3496585  PMID: 22963509
Doppler; Malaria parasitaemia; Placenta; Pregnancy; Umbilical artery; Uterine artery; Foetal growth
22.  Diagnosing Severe Falciparum Malaria in Parasitaemic African Children: A Prospective Evaluation of Plasma PfHRP2 Measurement 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001297.
Arjen Dondorp and colleagues investigate whether the plasma level of Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein 2 can be used to distinguish between severe malaria and other severe febrile illness in African children with malaria.
Background
In African children, distinguishing severe falciparum malaria from other severe febrile illnesses with coincidental Plasmodium falciparum parasitaemia is a major challenge. P. falciparum histidine-rich protein 2 (PfHRP2) is released by mature sequestered parasites and can be used to estimate the total parasite burden. We investigated the prognostic significance of plasma PfHRP2 and used it to estimate the malaria-attributable fraction in African children diagnosed with severe malaria.
Methods and Findings
Admission plasma PfHRP2 was measured prospectively in African children (from Mozambique, The Gambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) aged 1 month to 15 years with severe febrile illness and a positive P. falciparum lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH)-based rapid test in a clinical trial comparing parenteral artesunate versus quinine (the AQUAMAT trial, ISRCTN 50258054). In 3,826 severely ill children, Plasmadium falciparum PfHRP2 was higher in patients with coma (p = 0.0209), acidosis (p<0.0001), and severe anaemia (p<0.0001). Admission geometric mean (95%CI) plasma PfHRP2 was 1,611 (1,350–1,922) ng/mL in fatal cases (n = 381) versus 1,046 (991–1,104) ng/mL in survivors (n = 3,445, p<0.0001), without differences in parasitaemia as assessed by microscopy. There was a U-shaped association between log10 plasma PfHRP2 and risk of death. Mortality increased 20% per log10 increase in PfHRP2 above 174 ng/mL (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.21, 95%CI 1.05–1.39, p = 0.009). A mechanistic model assuming a PfHRP2-independent risk of death in non-malaria illness closely fitted the observed data and showed malaria-attributable mortality less than 50% with plasma PfHRP2≤174 ng/mL. The odds ratio (OR) for death in artesunate versus quinine-treated patients was 0.61 (95%CI 0.44–0.83, p = 0.0018) in the highest PfHRP2 tertile, whereas there was no difference in the lowest tertile (OR 1.05; 95%CI 0.69–1.61; p = 0.82). A limitation of the study is that some conclusions are drawn from a mechanistic model, which is inherently dependent on certain assumptions. However, a sensitivity analysis of the model indicated that the results were robust to a plausible range of parameter estimates. Further studies are needed to validate our findings.
Conclusions
Plasma PfHRP2 has prognostic significance in African children with severe falciparum malaria and provides a tool to stratify the risk of “true” severe malaria-attributable disease as opposed to other severe illnesses in parasitaemic African children.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. In 2010, malaria caused an estimated 655,000 deaths worldwide, mostly in Africa, where according to the World Health Organization, one African child dies every minute from the disease. There are four Plasmodium parasite species that cause malaria in humans, with one species, Plasmodium falciparum, causing the most severe disease. However, diagnosing severe falciparum malaria in children living in endemic areas is problematic, as many semi-immune children may have the malaria parasites in their blood (described as being parasitaemic) but do not have clinical disease. Therefore, a positive malaria blood smear may be coincidental and not be diagnostic of severe malaria, and unfortunately, neither are the clinical symptoms of severe malaria, such as shock, acidosis, or coma, which can also be caused by other childhood infections. For these reasons, the misdiagnosis of falciparum malaria in severely ill children is an important problem in sub-Saharan Africa, and may result in unnecessary child deaths.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous studies have suggested that a parasite protein—P. falciparum histidine-rich protein-2 (PfHRP2)—is a measure of the total number of parasites in the patient. Unlike the circulating parasites detected on a blood film, which do not represent the parasites that get stuck in vital organs, PfHRP2 is distributed equally through the total blood plasma volume, and so can be considered a measure of the total parasite burden in the previous 48 hours. So in this study, the researchers assessed the prognostic value of plasma PfHRP2 in African children with severe malaria and whether this protein could distinguish children who really do have severe malaria from those who have severe febrile illness but coincidental parasitaemia, who may have another infection.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assessed levels of plasma PfHRP2 in 3,826 out of a possible 5,425 African children who participated in a large multinational trial (in Mozambique, The Gambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) that compared the anti-malarial drugs quinine and artesunate for the treatment of severe malaria. All children had a clinical diagnosis of severe malaria confirmed by a rapid diagnostic test, and the researchers used clinical signs to define the severity of malaria. The researchers assessed the relationship between plasma PfHRP2 concentrations and risk of death taking other well established predictors of death, such as coma, convulsions, hypoglycaemia, respiratory distress, and shock, into account.
The researchers found that PfHRP2 was detectable in 3,800/3,826 (99%) children with severe malaria and that the average plasma PfHRP2 levels was significantly higher in the 381 children who died from malaria than in children who survived (1,611 ng/mL versus 1,046 ng/mL). Plasma PfHRP2 was also significantly higher in children with severe malaria signs and symptoms such as coma, acidosis, and severe anaemia. Importantly, the researchers found that high death rates were associated with either very low or very high values of plasma PfHRP2: the odds (chance) of death were 20% higher per unit increase in PfHRP2 above a specific threshold (174 ng/ml), but below this concentration, the risk of death increased with decreasing levels, probably because at lower levels disease was caused by a severe febrile disease other than malaria, like septicemia. Finally, the researchers found that in children within the highest PfHRP2 tertile, the chance of death when treated with the antimalarial drug artesunate versus quinine was 0.61 but that there was no difference in death rates in the lowest tertile, which supports that patients with very low plasma PfHRP2 have a different severe febrile illness than malaria. The researchers use mathematical modeling to provide cut-off values for plasma PfHRP2 denoting the proportion of patients with a diagnosis other than severe malaria.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that in areas of moderate or high malaria transmission where a high proportion of children are parasitaemic, plasma PfHRP2 levels taken on admission to hospital can differentiate children at highest risk of death from severe falciparum malaria from those likely to have alternative causes of severe febrile illness. Therefore, plasma PfHRP2 could be considered a valuable additional diagnostic tool and prognostic indicator in African children with severe falciparum malaria. This finding is important for clinicians treating children with severe febrile illnesses in malaria-endemic countries: while high levels of plasma PfHRP2 is indicative of severe malaria which needs urgent antimalarial treatment, low levels suggest that another severe infective disease should be considered, warranting additional investigations and urgent treatment with antibiotics.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001297.
A previous small study in PLOS ONE explores the relationship between plasma PfHRP2 and severe malaria in Tanzanian children
The WHO website and the website of Malaria No More have comprehensive information about malaria
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001297
PMCID: PMC3424256  PMID: 22927801
23.  Sequence variation does not confound the measurement of plasma PfHRP2 concentration in African children presenting with severe malaria 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:276.
Background
Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein PFHRP2 measurement is used widely for diagnosis, and more recently for severity assessment in falciparum malaria. The Pfhrp2 gene is highly polymorphic, with deletion of the entire gene reported in both laboratory and field isolates. These issues potentially confound the interpretation of PFHRP2 measurements.
Methods
Studies designed to detect deletion of Pfhrp2 and its paralog Pfhrp3 were undertaken with samples from patients in seven countries contributing to the largest hospital-based severe malaria trial (AQUAMAT). The quantitative relationship between sequence polymorphism and PFHRP2 plasma concentration was examined in samples from selected sites in Mozambique and Tanzania.
Results
There was no evidence for deletion of either Pfhrp2 or Pfhrp3 in the 77 samples with lowest PFHRP2 plasma concentrations across the seven countries. Pfhrp2 sequence diversity was very high with no haplotypes shared among 66 samples sequenced. There was no correlation between Pfhrp2 sequence length or repeat type and PFHRP2 plasma concentration.
Conclusions
These findings indicate that sequence polymorphism is not a significant cause of variation in PFHRP2 concentration in plasma samples from African children. This justifies the further development of plasma PFHRP2 concentration as a method for assessing African children who may have severe falciparum malaria. The data also add to the existing evidence base supporting the use of rapid diagnostic tests based on PFHRP2 detection.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-276
PMCID: PMC3480887  PMID: 22898068
Malaria; Falciparum; Severe; Africa; Histidine-rich protein; Tandem repeat
24.  Epidemiology of stillbirth in low-middle income countries: A Global Network Study 
Objective
To determine population-based stillbirth rates and to determine whether the timing and maturity of the stillbirths suggest a high proportion of potentially preventable deaths.
Design
Prospective observational study.
Setting
Communities in six low-income countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Guatemala, India, and Pakistan) and one site in a mid-income country (Argentina).
Population
Pregnant women residing in the study communities.
Methods
Over a five-year period, in selected catchment areas, using multiple methodologies, trained study staff obtained pregnancy outcomes on each delivery in their area.
Main outcome measures
Pregnancy outcome, stillbirth characteristics.
Results
Outcomes of 195 400 deliveries were included. Stillbirth rates ranged from 32 per 1 000 in Pakistan to 8 per 1 000 births in Argentina. Three-fourths (76%) of stillbirth off-spring were not macerated, 63% were ≥37 weeks and 48% weighed 2 500g or more. Across all sites, women with no education, of high and low parity, of older age, and without access to antenatal care were at significantly greater risk for stillbirth (p<0.001). Compared to those delivered by a physician, women delivered by nurses and traditional birth attendants had a lower risk of stillbirth.
Conclusions
In these low-middle income countries, most stillbirth offspring were not macerated, were reported as ≥37 weeks’ gestation, and almost half weighed at least 2 500g. With access to better medical care, especially in the intrapartum period, many of these stillbirths could likely be prevented.
doi:10.1111/j.1600-0412.2011.01275.x
PMCID: PMC3412613  PMID: 21916854
Developing countries; intrapartum stillbirth; stillbirth
25.  Home birth attendants in low income countries: who are they and what do they do? 
Background
Nearly half the world’s babies are born at home. We sought to evaluate the training, knowledge, skills, and access to medical equipment and testing for home birth attendants across 7 international sites.
Methods
Face-to-face interviews were done by trained interviewers to assess level of training, knowledge and practices regarding care during the antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum periods. The survey was administered to a sample of birth attendants conducting home or out-of-facility deliveries in 7 sites in 6 countries (India, Pakistan, Guatemala, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Zambia).
Results
A total of 1226 home birth attendants were surveyed. Less than half the birth attendants were literate. Eighty percent had one month or less of formal training. Most home birth attendants did not have basic equipment (e.g., blood pressure apparatus, stethoscope, infant bag and mask manual resuscitator). Reporting of births and maternal and neonatal deaths to government agencies was low. Indian auxilliary nurse midwives, who perform some home but mainly clinic births, were far better trained and differed in many characteristics from the birth attendants who only performed deliveries at home.
Conclusions
Home birth attendants in low-income countries were often illiterate, could not read numbers and had little formal training. Most had few of the skills or access to tests, medications and equipment that are necessary to reduce maternal, fetal or neonatal mortality.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-34
PMCID: PMC3493311  PMID: 22583622
Home births; Traditional birth attendants; Perinatal mortality

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