Women’s groups and health education by peer counsellors can improve the health of mothers and children. We assessed their effects on mortality and breastfeeding rates in rural Malawi.
We did a 2×2 factorial, cluster-randomised trial in 185 888 people in Mchinji district. 48 equal-sized clusters were randomly allocated to four groups with a computer-generated number sequence. 24 facilitators guided groups through a community action cycle to tackle maternal and child health problems. 72 trained volunteer peer counsellors made home visits at five timepoints during pregnancy and after birth to support breastfeeding and infant care. Primary outcomes for the women’s group intervention were maternal, perinatal, neonatal, and infant mortality rates (MMR, PMR, NMR, and IMR, respectively); and for the peer counselling were IMR and exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) rates. Analysis was by intention to treat. The trial is registered as ISRCTN06477126.
We monitored outcomes of 26 262 births between 2005 and 2009. In a factorial model adjusted only for clustering and the volunteer peer counselling intervention, in women’s group areas, for years 2 and 3, we noted non-significant decreases in NMR (odds ratio 0·93, 0·64–1·35) and MMR (0·54, 0·28–1·04). After adjustment for parity, socioeconomic quintile, and baseline measures, effects were larger for NMR (0·85, 0·59–1·22) and MMR (0·48, 0·26–0·91). Because of the interaction between the two interventions, a stratified analysis was done. For women’s groups, in adjusted analyses, MMR fell by 74% (0·26, 0·10–0·70), and NMR by 41% (0·59, 0·40–0·86) in areas with no peer counsellors, but there was no effect in areas with counsellors (1·09, 0·40–2·98, and 1·38, 0·75–2·54). Factorial analysis for the peer counselling intervention for years 1–3 showed a fall in IMR of 18% (0·82, 0·67–1·00) and an improvement in EBF rates (2·42, 1·48–3·96). The results of the stratified, adjusted analysis showed a 36% reduction in IMR (0·64, 0·48–0·85) but no effect on EBF (1·18, 0·63–2·25) in areas without women’s groups, and in areas with women’s groups there was no effect on IMR (1·05, 0·82–1·36) and an increase in EBF (5·02, 2·67–9·44) . The cost of women’s groups was US$114 per year of life lost (YLL) averted and that of peer counsellors was $33 per YLL averted, using stratified data from single intervention comparisons.
Community mobilisation through women’s groups and volunteer peer counsellor health education are methods to improve maternal and child health outcomes in poor rural populations in Africa.
Saving Newborn Lives, UK Department for International Development, and Wellcome Trust.
To learn the attitudes and concerns of the local community on participating in research, infant feeding practices, and maternal nutrition in order to inform the design of a clinical trial in Lilongwe, Malawi on the safety and efficacy of antiretroviral and nutrition interventions to reduce postnatal transmission of HIV.
Formative research methods were used, including semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, home observations, and taste trials. Data were collected, analyzed, and incorporated into the protocol within three months.
Participants were supportive of the clinical trial, although their overall understanding of research was limited. Mothers agreed that infants’ blood could be drawn by venipuncture, yet concern was raised about the amount of blood proposed to be collected from both infants and mothers. Data demonstrated that rapid breastfeeding cessation would be difficult and malnutrition could be a risk if infants were weaned early. Mothers selected a maternal supplement suitable for use in the clinical trial.
The protocol was rapidly modified to achieve cultural acceptability while maintaining study objectives. Without the formative research, several significant areas would have been undetected and may have jeopardized the implementation of the trial. Additional research was carried out to develop a meaningful informed consent process, the amount of blood collected was reduced to acceptable levels, and the protocol was modified to reduce the risk of malnutrition. Researchers who conduct clinical trials are encouraged to incorporate formative research into their protocol design to ensure participant understanding of the research, to safeguard participants, and to increase feasibility and acceptance of the clinical research in the community.
Qualitative research; ethics; clinical trial; HIV; Africa
Although the Malawian government recommends HIV-exposed infants receive early infant diagnosis of HIV (EID) at “under-five” pediatric clinics (U5Cs), most never enroll. Therefore, we evaluated the integration of EID testing into an immunization clinic (IC) compared to the current standard of EID testing at an U5C.
Prospective observational study.
Using routine provider initiated HIV testing and counseling (PITC) registers, we prospectively studied 1757 children offered PITC at a government IC and U5C. Infants tested by HIV DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were followed until PCR result disclosure or defaulting.
We sampled 877 and 880 consecutive PITC recipients at U5C and IC, respectively. Overall, a 7 fold greater proportion received PITC at IC (84.2% vs 11.4%, p<0.001). PITC recipients at IC were more than 14 months younger (2.6 vs 17.0, p<0.001), with greater proportions HIV-exposed (17.6% vs 5.3%, p<0.001) and PCR eligible (7.9% vs 3.5%, p<0.001).
A higher percentage of IC infants accepted PCR testing (100.0% vs 90.3%, p=0.03). Additionally, IC PCR recipients were 2.5 months younger (3.1 vs 5.6, p<0.001) with 4 times less testing PCR positive (7.1% vs 32.1%, p<0.001). Importantly, a more than 3 fold greater proportion of HIV-exposed infants at IC returned for their PCR result and enrolled into care (78.6% vs 25.0%, p<0.001).
Compared to an U5C, integrating EID testing into an IC is more acceptable, more feasible, enrolls more infants into EID at younger ages, and would likely strengthen Malawi's EID services if expanded.
Africa; pediatrics; prevention of mother-to-child transmission; early infant diagnosis of HIV; HIV DNA PCR; provider initiated HIV testing and counseling
The Tingathe program utilizes community health workers to improve prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) service delivery. We evaluated the impact of antiretroviral (ARV) regimen and maternal CD4+ count on HIV transmission within the Tingathe program in Lilongwe, Malawi.
We reviewed clinical records of 1088 mother-infant pairs enrolled from March 2009 to March 2011 who completed follow-up to first DNA PCR. Eligibility for antiretroviral treatment (ART) was determined by CD4+ cell count (CD4+) for women not yet on ART. ART-eligible women initiated stavudine-lamivudine-nevirapine. Early ART was defined as ART for ≥14 weeks prior to delivery. For women ineligible for ART, optimal ARV prophylaxis was maternal AZT ≥6 weeks+sdNVP, and infant sdNVP+AZT for 1 week. HIV transmission rates were determined for ARV regimens, and factors associated with vertical transmission were identified using bivariate logistic regression.
Transmission rate at first PCR was 4.1%. Pairs receiving suboptimal ARV prophylaxis were more likely to transmit HIV (10.3%, 95% CI, 5.5–18.1%). ART was associated with reduced transmission (1.4%, 95% CI, 0.6–3.0%), with early ART associated with decreased transmission (no transmission), compared to all other treatment groups (p = 0.001). No association was detected between transmission and CD4+ categories (p = 0.337), trimester of pregnancy at enrollment (p = 0.100), or maternal age (p = 0.164).
Low rates of MTCT of HIV are possible in resource-constrained settings under routine programmatic conditions. No transmissions were observed among women on ART for more than 14 weeks prior to delivery.
We evaluated the efficacy of a maternal triple-drug antiretroviral regimen or infant nevirapine prophylaxis for 28 weeks during breast-feeding to reduce postnatal transmission of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in Malawi.
We randomly assigned 2369 HIV-1–positive, breast-feeding mothers with a CD4+ lymphocyte count of at least 250 cells per cubic millimeter and their infants to receive a maternal antiretroviral regimen, infant nevirapine, or no extended postnatal antiretroviral regimen (control group). All mothers and infants received perinatal prophylaxis with single-dose nevirapine and 1 week of zidovudine plus lamivudine. We used the Kaplan–Meier method to estimate the cumulative risk of HIV-1 transmission or death by 28 weeks among infants who were HIV-1–negative 2 weeks after birth. Rates were compared with the use of the log-rank test.
Among mother–infant pairs, 5.0% of infants were HIV-1–positive at 2 weeks of life. The estimated risk of HIV-1 transmission between 2 and 28 weeks was higher in the control group (5.7%) than in either the maternal-regimen group (2.9%, P = 0.009) or the infant-regimen group (1.7%, P<0.001). The estimated risk of infant HIV-1 infection or death between 2 and 28 weeks was 7.0% in the control group, 4.1% in the maternal-regimen group (P = 0.02), and 2.6% in the infant-regimen group (P<0.001). The proportion of women with neutropenia was higher among those receiving the antiretroviral regimen (6.2%) than among those in either the nevirapine group (2.6%) or the control group (2.3%). Among infants receiving nevirapine, 1.9% had a hypersensitivity reaction.
The use of either a maternal antiretroviral regimen or infant nevirapine for 28 weeks was effective in reducing HIV-1 transmission during breast-feeding. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00164736.)
This article presents a detailed description of a community mobilization intervention involving women’s groups in Mchinji District, Malawi. The intervention was implemented between 2005 and 2010.
The intervention aims to build the capacities of communities to take control of the mother and child health issues that affect them. To achieve this it comprises trained local female facilitators establishing groups and using a manual, participatory rural appraisal tools and picture cards to guide them through a community action cycle to identify and implement solutions to mother and child health problems. Significant resource inputs include salaries for facilitators and supervisors, and training, equipment and materials to support their work with groups.
It is hypothesized that the groups will catalyse community collective action to address mother and child health issues and improve the health and reduce the mortality of mothers and children. Their impact, implementation and cost-effectiveness have been rigorously evaluated through a randomized controlled trial design. The results of these evaluations will be reported in 2011.
Loss to follow-up is a major challenge in the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme in Malawi with reported loss to follow-up of greater than 70%. Tingathe-PMTCT is a pilot intervention that utilizes dedicated community health workers (CHWs) to create a complete continuum of care within the PMTCT cascade, improving service utilization and retention of mothers and infants. We describe the impact of the intervention on longitudinal care starting with diagnosis of the mother at antenatal care (ANC) through final diagnosis of the infant.
PMTCT service utilization, programme retention and outcomes were evaluated for pregnant women living with HIV and their exposed infants enrolled in the Tingathe-PMTCT programme between March 2009 and March 2011. Multivariate logistic regression was done to evaluate maternal factors associated with failure to complete the cascade.
Over 24 months, 1688 pregnant women living with HIV were enrolled. Median maternal age was 27 years (IQR, 23.8 to 30.8); 333 (19.7%) were already on ART. Among the remaining women, 1328/1355 (98%) received a CD4 test, with 1243/1328 (93.6%) receiving results. Of the 499 eligible for ART, 363 (72.8%) were successfully initiated. Prior to, delivery there were 93 (5.7%) maternal/foetal deaths, 137 (8.1%) women transferred/moved, 51 (3.0%) were lost and 58 (3.4%) refused ongoing PMTCT services. Of the 1318 live births to date, 1264 (95.9%) of the mothers and 1285 (97.5%) of the infants received ARV prophylaxis; 1064 (80.7%) infants were tested for HIV by PCR and started on cotrimoxazole. Median age at PCR was 1.7 months (IQR, 1.5 to 2.5). Overall transmission at first PCR was 43/1047 (4.1%). Of the 43 infants with positive PCR results, 36 (83.7%) were enrolled in ART clinic and 33 (76.7%) were initiated on ART.
Case management and support by dedicated CHWs can create a continuum of longitudinal care in the PMTCT cascade and result in improved outcomes.
prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT); early infant diagnosis (EID); paediatric HIV; HIV; task shifting; community engagement; community health workers; retention; loss to follow up
Approximately 2 billion persons worldwide are infected with schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthes (STH), many in areas where endemic malaria transmission coexists. Few data exist on associations between these infections. Nested within a larger clinical trial, primigravid and secundigravid women provided blood samples for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and peripheral malaria films and stool and urine for evaluation of STH and Schistosoma spp. during their initial antenatal clinic visit. The most common parasitic infections were malaria (37.6%), S. haematobium (32.3%), and hookworm (14.4%); 14.2% of women were HIV-infected. S. haematobium infection was associated with lower malarial parasite densities (344 versus 557 parasites/μL blood; P < 0.05). In multivariate analysis, HIV and hookworm infection were independently associated with malaria infection (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9 and 95% confidence interval = 1.2–3.0 for HIV; adjusted odds ratio = 1.9 and 95% confidence interval = 1.03–3.5 for hookworm). Concurrent helminthic infection had both positive and negative effects on malaria parasitemia among pregnant women in Malawi.
Verbal autopsy (VA) is a widely used method for analyzing cause of death in absence of vital registration systems. We adapted the InterVA method to extrapolate causes of death for stillbirths and neonatal deaths from verbal autopsy questionnaires, using data from Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Nepal.
We obtained 734 stillbirth and neonatal VAs from recent community studies in rural areas: 169 from Malawi, 385 from Nepal, and 180 from Zimbabwe. Initial refinement of the InterVA model was based on 100 physician-reviewed VAs from Malawi. InterVA indicators and matrix probabilities for cause of death were reviewed for clinical and epidemiological coherence by a pediatrician-researcher and an epidemiologist involved in the development of InterVA. The modified InterVA model was evaluated by comparing population-level cause-specific mortality fractions and individual agreement from two methods of interpretation (physician review and InterVA) for a further 69 VAs from Malawi, 385 from Nepal, and 180 from Zimbabwe.
Case-by-case agreement between InterVA and reviewing physician diagnoses for 69 cases from Malawi, 180 cases from Zimbabwe, and 385 cases from Nepal were 83% (kappa 0.76 (0.75 - 0.80)), 71% (kappa 0.41(0.32-0.51)), and 74% (kappa 0.63 (0.60-0.63)), respectively. The proportion of stillbirths identified as fresh or macerated by the different methods of VA interpretation was similar in all three settings. Comparing across countries, the modified InterVA method found that proportions of preterm births and deaths due to infection were higher in Zimbabwe (44%) than in Malawi (28%) or Nepal (20%).
The modified InterVA method provides plausible results for stillbirths and newborn deaths, broadly comparable to physician review but with the advantage of internal consistency. The method allows standardized cross-country comparisons and eliminates the inconsistencies of physician review in such comparisons.
Some Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-directed therapies are predicted to be effective only when lytic viral replication occurs. We studied whether cyclophosphamide chemotherapy induces EBV to switch from latent to lytic phases of infection in a series of EBV-associated Burkitt lymphomas.
Children with first presentation of an expanding, solid maxillary or mandibular mass consistent with Burkitt lymphoma underwent fine needle aspiration just prior to initiation of cyclophosphamide and again 1 to 5 days later. Aspirated cells were examined for latent and lytic EBV infection using in situ hybridization to EBV-encoded RNA (EBER), immunohistochemical analysis of the lytic EBV proteins BZLF1 and BMRF1, reverse transcription PCR targeting BZLF1 transcripts, and EBV viral load measurement by quantitative PCR.
Among 21 lymphomas expressing EBER prior to chemotherapy, 9/10 still expressed EBER on day 1 after therapy while only 2/11 (18%) specimens still expressed EBER at days 3 to 5, implying that chemotherapy was fairly effective at eliminating latently infected cells. Neither of the lytic products, BZLF1 or BMRF1, was significantly upregulated at the post-therapy time-points examined. However, EBV genomic copy number increased in 5/10 samples 1 day after treatment began, suggesting that viral replication occurs within the first 24 hours.
Cyclophosphamide may induce the lytic phase of EBV infection and is fairly effective in diminishing EBER-expressing tumor cells within 5 days. These findings provide the rationale for a trial testing synergistic tumor cell killing using cyclophosphamide with a drug like ganciclovir targeting lytically infected cells.
Epstein-Barr Virus; Burkitt lymphoma; lytic infection; cyclophosphamide; ganciclovir
Nutritional iron deficiency may limit iron availability to the malaria parasite reducing infection risk, and/or impair host immunity thereby increasing this risk. In pregnant women, there is evidence of an adverse effect with iron supplementation, but the few reported studies are strongly confounded.
A case control study in pregnant Malawian women was undertaken in Chikhwawa southern Malawi in order to describe iron status in relation to placental malaria controlling for several confounding factors. Pregnancy characteristics were obtained and a blood sample at delivery. A full blood count was performed and serum ferritin and transferrin receptor quantified by enzyme-linked immunoassay. DNA analysis was used to identify genetic polymorphisms for ABO phenotype, hemoglobin HbS, and glucose -6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. Placental tissue was obtained and malaria histology classified as active, past or no malaria infection.
112 cases with placental malaria were identified and 110 women with no evidence of placental infection. Iron deficiency was less frequent in women with placental Plasmodium falciparum infection. In those with acute, chronic or past placental infections the odds ratio for iron deficiency was 0.4, 95% CI 0.2-0.8, p = 0.01; for acute and chronic infections 0.4, 0.2-0.8, p = 0.006; for acute infection 0.3, 0.1-0.7, p = 0.001. The association was greater in multigravidae.
Women with either acute, or acute and chronic placental malaria were less likely to have iron deficiency than women without placental malaria infection There is a priority to establish if reversing iron deficiency through iron supplementation programs either prior to or during pregnancy enhances malaria risk.
The UN Millennium Development Goals call for substantial reductions in maternal and child mortality, to be achieved through reductions in morbidity and mortality during pregnancy, delivery, postpartum and early childhood. The MaiMwana Project aims to test community-based interventions that tackle maternal and child health problems through increasing awareness and local action.
This study uses a two-by-two factorial cluster-randomised controlled trial design to test the impact of two interventions. The impact of a community mobilisation intervention run through women's groups, on home care, health care-seeking behaviours and maternal and infant mortality, will be tested. The impact of a volunteer-led infant feeding and care support intervention, on rates of exclusive breastfeeding, uptake of HIV-prevention services and infant mortality, will also be tested. The women's group intervention will employ local female facilitators to guide women's groups through a four-phase cycle of problem identification and prioritisation, strategy identification, implementation and evaluation. Meetings will be held monthly at village level. The infant feeding intervention will select local volunteers to provide advice and support for breastfeeding, birth preparedness, newborn care and immunisation. They will visit pregnant and new mothers in their homes five times during and after pregnancy.
The unit of intervention allocation will be clusters of rural villages of 2500-4000 population. 48 clusters have been defined and randomly allocated to either women's groups only, infant feeding support only, both interventions, or no intervention. Study villages are surrounded by 'buffer areas' of non-study villages to reduce contamination between intervention and control areas. Outcome indicators will be measured through a demographic surveillance system. Primary outcomes will be maternal, infant, neonatal and perinatal mortality for the women's group intervention, and exclusive breastfeeding rates and infant mortality for the infant feeding intervention.
Structured interviews will be conducted with mothers one-month and six-months after birth to collect detailed quantitative data on care practices and health-care-seeking. Further qualitative, quantitative and economic data will be collected for process and economic evaluations.
HIV-1 is present in anatomical compartments and bodily fluids. Most transmissions occur through sexual acts, making virus in semen the proximal source in male donors. We find three distinct relationships in comparing viral RNA populations between blood and semen in men with chronic HIV-1 infection, and we propose that the viral populations in semen arise by multiple mechanisms including: direct import of virus, oligoclonal amplification within the seminal tract, or compartmentalization. In addition, we find significant enrichment of six out of nineteen cytokines and chemokines in semen of both HIV-infected and uninfected men, and another seven further enriched in infected individuals. The enrichment of cytokines involved in innate immunity in the seminal tract, complemented with chemokines in infected men, creates an environment conducive to T cell activation and viral replication. These studies define different relationships between virus in blood and semen that can significantly alter the composition of the viral population at the source that is most proximal to the transmitted virus.
The work described in this report is directed at how HIV-1 viral RNA populations differ between the blood plasma and male genital tract in established infection. This site is of special interest since it is the proximal source of most transmissions of HIV-1. Thus, lessons learned about HIV-1 in the seminal tract are directly relevant to the mechanism of HIV-1 transmission. We have used single genome amplification to generate viral sequences from paired blood and semen samples in men with chronic HIV-1 infection. When compared to viral populations in blood plasma, we observe that virus in the seminal plasma can be equilibrated, clonally-amplified, or compartmentalized. We have also performed a characterization of the cytokine and chemokine milieu in these two compartments. We report a dramatic concentration of immune modulators in the seminal plasma relative to the blood, and these likely enhance the potential for viral replication in this compartment by creating an environment where target cells are kept in an activated state. These data define new and distinct features of virus:host interactions and represent a significant advance in our understanding of HIV-1 replication in the male genital tract.
The standard first-line antiretroviral (ART) regimen in Malawi for both adults and children is a fixed-dose combination tablet containing stavudine (d4T), lamivudine (3TC) and nevirapine (NVP). This regimen has been shown to yield satisfactory virologic and immunologic outcomes in children. Published studies have described insights into discontinuation of first-line regimen and toxicities of ART in adults, but similar studies in paediatric populations are lacking.
A retrospective cohort study was undertaken to assess reasons for discontinuation of the standard first-line ART regimen (d4T/3TC/NVP) in a paediatric population. In total, 1434 patients met eligibility criteria and were included. The cohort had mean and median age at ART initiation of 4.7 years and 2.9 years, respectively (range: 0.1 months-18.7 years). The gender distribution was 47% female and 53% male. Median follow-up time on ART was 1.8 years (range: 2 weeks-3.9 years). A majority (96.2%) of patients were on the standard first-line ART regimen, while 3.8% (54) were on a different regimen. Twenty-eight patients (2.0%) were on an alternative first-line regimen due to toxicities, 22 patients (1.5%) were on a second-line regimen due to ART failure, and four patients (0.3%) were on a non-standard regimen for other clinical reasons.
Of the 28 patients who experienced toxicities requiring ART regimen change, 60.7% (17) were caused by NVP, 39.3% (11) by d4T, and none by 3TC. The median time from first-line ART initiation to alternative first-line ART was two months (range: 10 days-28.1 months); 60.7% of patients on alternative first-line ART were male. Average time on ART until switch to second-line ART regimen was 16.3 months (SD: 9.3 months). The probability of failure after one year on first-line regimen was 1.6% (95% CI: 0.9-2.6).
There was no compelling evidence in this cohort, representing approximately 10% of all children on ART in Malawi, to support changing the standard paediatric first-line regimen based on early toxicities or failure. However, experience from the national adult cohort, longer term follow up of the paediatric cohort in this study, emerging data on resistance after single-dose NVP containing mother to child transmission antiretroviral prophylaxis, and new 2009 World Health Organization ART recommendations may influence national policy change to a different first-line regimen.
To determine predictors of mortality in children on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) who attended the Paediatric HIV Clinic at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Retrospective case cohort study by chart review of children who had started ART between October 2004 and May 2006. Bivariable and multivariable analysis were performed with and without defaulters to evaluate associations according to vital status and to identify independent predictors of mortality.
Forty-one of 258 children (15.9%) were deceased, 185 (71.7%) were alive, and 32 (12.4%) had defaulted: 51% were female, 7% were under 18 months, 26% were 18 months to 5 years, and 54% were >5 years of age. Most were WHO stage III or IV (56% and 37%, respectively). On multivariate analysis, factors most strongly associated with mortality and defaulting were age <18 months [hazards ratio (HR) 2.11 (95% CI 1.0–4.51)] and WHO stage IV [HR 2.00 (95% CI 1.07–3.76)].
To improve outcomes of HIV-positive children, they must be identified and treated early, specifically children under 18 months of age. Access to infant diagnostic procedures must be improved to allow effective initiation of ART in infants at higher risk of death.
Malawi; HIV/AIDS; paediatrics; mortality; anti-retroviral therapy
A process evaluation of nurses’ implementation of an infant-feeding counseling protocol was conducted for the Breastfeeding, Antiretroviral and Nutrition (BAN) Study, a prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV clinical trial in Lilongwe, Malawi. Six trained nurses counseled HIV-infected mothers to exclusively breastfeed for 24 weeks postpartum and to stop breastfeeding within an additional four weeks. Implementation data were collected via direct observations of 123 infant feeding counseling sessions (30 antenatal and 93 postnatal) and interviews with each nurse. Analysis included calculating a percent adherence to checklists and conducting a content analysis for the observation and interview data. Nurses were implementing the protocol at an average adherence level of 90% or above. Although not detailed in the protocol, nurses appropriately counseled mothers on their actual or intended formula milk usage after weaning. Results indicate that nurses implemented the protocol as designed. Results will help to interpret the BAN Study’s outcomes.
This study evaluated two models of routine HIV testing of hospitalized children in a high HIV-prevalence resource-constrained African setting. Both models incorporated “task shifting,” or the allocation of tasks to the least-costly, capable health worker.
Methods and Findings
Two models were piloted for three months each within the pediatric department of a referral hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi between January 1 and June 30, 2008. Model 1 utilized lay counselors for HIV testing instead of nurses and clinicians. Model 2 further shifted program flow and advocacy responsibilities from counselors to volunteer parents of HIV-infected children, called “patient escorts.” A retrospective review of data from 6318 hospitalized children offered HIV testing between January-December 2008 was conducted. The pilot quarters of Model 1 and Model 2 were compared, with Model 2 selected to continue after the pilot period. There was a 2-fold increase in patients offered HIV testing with Model 2 compared with Model 1 (43.1% vs 19.9%, p<0.001). Furthermore, patients in Model 2 were younger (17.3 vs 26.7 months, p<0.001) and tested sooner after admission (1.77 vs 2.44 days, p<0.001). There were no differences in test acceptance or enrollment rates into HIV care, and the program trends continued 6 months after the pilot period. Overall, 10244 HIV antibody tests (4779 maternal; 5465 child) and 453 DNA-PCR tests were completed, with 97.8% accepting testing. 19.6% of all mothers (n = 1112) and 8.5% of all children (n = 525) were HIV-infected. Furthermore, 6.5% of children were HIV-exposed (n = 405). Cumulatively, 72.9% (n = 678) of eligible children were evaluated in the hospital by a HIV-trained clinician, and 68.3% (n = 387) successfully enrolled into outpatient HIV care.
The strategy presented here, task shifting from lay counselors alone to lay counselors and patient escorts, greatly improved program outcomes while only marginally increasing operational costs. The wider implementation of this strategy could accelerate pediatric HIV care access in high-prevalence settings.
In order to evaluate strategies to reduce HIV transmission through breast milk and optimize both maternal and infant health among HIV-infected women and their infants, we designed and implemented a large, randomized clinical trial in Lilongwe, Malawi. The development of protocols for large, randomized clinical trials is a complicated and lengthy process often requiring alterations to the original research design. Many factors lead to delays and changes, including study site-specific priorities, new scientific information becoming available, the involvement of national and international human subject committees and monitoring boards, and alterations in medical practice and guidance at local, national, and international levels. When planning and implementing a clinical study in a resource-limited setting, additional factors must be taken into account, including local customs and program needs, language and socio-cultural barriers, high background rates of malnutrition and endemic diseases, extreme poverty, lack of personnel, and limited infrastructure. Investigators must be prepared to modify the protocol as necessary in order to ensure participant safety and successful implementation of study procedures. This paper describes the process of designing, implementing, and subsequently modifying the Breastfeeding, Antiretrovirals, and Nutrition, (BAN) study, a large, ongoing, randomized breastfeeding intervention trial of HIV-infected women and their infants conducted at a single site in Lilongwe, Malawi. We highlight some of the successes, challenges, and lessons learned at different stages during the conduct of the trial.
Mother-to-child transmission of HIV; breastfeeding; HIV/AIDS; nutrition; study design and management; antiretroviral drugs
The HIV prevalence in Malawi is 12% and Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), in the capital Lilongwe, is the main provider of adult and paediatric HIV services in the central region. The Lighthouse at KCH offers opt-in HIV testing and counselling (HTC) for adults and children. In June 2004, Lighthouse was the first clinic to provide free antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the public sector, but few children accessed the services. In response, provider-initiated HIV testing and counselling (PITC) and an ART clinic were introduced at the paediatric department at KCH in Quarter 4 (Q4) 2004.
We analysed prospectively collected, aggregated data of quarterly reports from Q1 2003 to Q4 2006 from HTC centre registers, ART registers and clinic registrations at the ART clinics of both Lighthouse and the paediatric department. By comparing data of both facilities before (Q1 2003 to Q3 2004), and after the introduction of the services at the paediatric department (Q4 2004 to Q4 2006), we assessed the effect of this intervention on the uptake of HIV services for children at KCH.
Overall, 3971 children were tested for HIV, 2428 HIV-infected children were registered for care and 1218 started ART. Between the two periods, the median (IQR) number of children being tested, registered and starting ART per quarter rose from 101 (53-109) to 358 (318-440), 56 (50-82) to 226 (192-234) and 18 (8-23) to 139 (115-150), respectively. The median proportion of tested clients per quarter that were children rose from 3.8% (2.7-4.3) to 9.6% (8.8 to 10.0) (p = 0.0009) and the proportion of ART starters that were children rose from 6.9% (4.9-9.3) to 21.1% (19.2-24.2) (p = 0.0036). The proportion of registered children and adults starting ART each quarter increased similarly, from 26% to 53%, and 20% to 52%, respectively.
Implementation of PITC and integration of ART services within the paediatric ward are likely to be the main reasons for improved access to HTC and ART for children at KCH, and can be recommended to other hospitals with paediatric inpatients in resource limited settings with high HIV prevalence.
To assess diversity of rotavirus strains in Lilongwe, Malawi, we conducted a cross-sectional study of children with acute gastroenteritis, July 2005–June 2007. Serotype G12 was identified in 30 (5%) of 546 rotavirus-positive fecal specimens. The G12 strain possessed multiple electropherotypes and P-types, but their viral protein 7 sequences were closely related, indicating that reassortment has occurred.
Gastroenteritis; rotavirus; electropherotype; VP7; VP4; Malawi; dispatch
Blood group O has been significantly associated with increased placental malaria infection in primiparae and reduced risk of infection in multiparae in the Gambia, an area with markedly seasonal malaria transmission. This study analyses the association between ABO blood group phenotypes in relation to placental malaria pathology and birth outcomes in southern Malawi, an area with perennial malaria transmission.
A cross-sectional study of 647 mother/child pairs delivering in Montfort Hospital, Chikwawa District between February-June 2004 and January-July 2005 was undertaken. Maternal peripheral and cord blood samples were obtained at delivery. Placental tissue was obtained and malaria histology classified as active, past or no malaria infection. Birth anthropometry was recorded. ABO blood group was measured by agglutination.
In primiparae, blood group O was significantly associated with increased risk of active placental infection (OR 2.18, 95% CI 1.15–4.6, p = 0.02) and an increased foetal-placental weight ratio compared to non-O phenotypes (5.68 versus 5.45, p = 0.03) In multiparae blood group O was significantly associated with less frequent active placental infection (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.36–0.98, p = 0.04), and a higher newborn ponderal index compared to non-O phenotypes (2.65 versus 2.55, p = 0.007). In multivariate regression parity was independently associated with increased risk of placental malaria (active andpast infection) in primiparae with blood group O (p = 0.034) and reduced risk in multiparae with the same phenotype (p = 0.015).
Parity related susceptibility to placental malaria is associated with the mothers ABO phenotype. This interaction influences foetal and placental growth and could be an important modifying factor for pregnancy outcomes. The biological explanation could relate to sialic acid dependent placental membrane differences which vary with ABO blood group.
We conducted retrospective, comparative analyses of contamination rates for cultures of blood obtained in the emergency rooms of Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Lilongwe Central Hospital (LCH) in central Malawi; and the Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) in the United States. None of the emergency room patients had indwelling intravascular devices at the time that the blood samples for cultures were obtained. In addition, we reviewed the contamination rates for a cohort of patients already hospitalized in the DUMC inpatient medical service, most of whom had indwelling intravascular devices. The bloodstream infection rates among the patients at MNH (n = 513) and LCH (n = 486) were similar (∼28%); the contamination rates at the two hospitals were 1.3% (7/513) and 0.8% (4/486), respectively. Of 54 microorganisms isolated from cultures of blood collected in the DUMC emergency room, 26 (48%) were identified as skin contaminants. Cultures of blood collected in the DUMC emergency room were significantly more likely to yield growth of contaminants than the cultures of blood collected in the emergency rooms at MNH and LCH combined (26/332 versus 11/1,003; P < 0.0001) or collected in the DUMC inpatient medical service (26/332 versus 7/283; P < 0.01). For the MNH and LCH blood cultures, lower contamination rates were observed when skin was disinfected with isopropyl alcohol plus tincture of iodine rather than isopropyl alcohol plus povidone-iodine. In conclusion, blood culture contamination was minimized in sub-Saharan African hospitals with substantially limited resources through scrupulous attention to aseptic skin cleansing and improved venipuncture techniques. Application of these principles when blood samples for culture are obtained in U.S. hospital emergency rooms should help mitigate blood culture contamination rates and the unnecessary microbiology workup of skin contaminants.
To prevent postnatal transmission of HIV in settings where safe alternatives to breastfeeding are unavailable, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding followed by early, rapid cessation of breastfeeding. Only limited data are available on the attitudes of health workers toward this recommendation and the impact of these attitudes on infant feeding counselling messages given to mothers.
As part of the Breastfeeding, Antiretroviral, and Nutrition (BAN) clinical trial, we carried out an in-depth qualitative study of the attitudes, beliefs, and counselling messages of 19 health workers in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Although none of the workers had received formal training, several reported having counseled HIV-positive mothers about infant feeding. Health workers with counselling experience believed that HIV-infected mothers should breastfeed exclusively, rather than infant formula feed, citing poverty as the primary reason. Because of high levels of malnutrition, all the workers had concerns about early cessation of breastfeeding.
Important differences were observed between the WHO recommendations and the attitudes and practices of the health workers. Understanding these differences is important for designing effective interventions.
Susceptibility profiles of medically important fungi in less-developed countries remain uncharacterized. We measured the MICs of amphotericin B, 5-flucytosine, fluconazole, itraconazole, and ketoconazole for Cryptococcus neoformans clinical isolates from Thailand, Malawi, and the United States and found no evidence of resistance or MIC profile differences among the countries.
Cryptococcus neoformans; susceptibility testing; Malawi; Thailand; United States
The World Health Organization recommends Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccination in areas of high tuberculosis prevalence. BCG's clinical and immune effects, not necessarily Mycobacterium tuberculosis specific, are unclear. BCG vaccine scarring often is used as a surrogate marker of vaccination or of effective vaccination. We evaluated BCG scarring status in relation to clinical findings and outcome in 700 hospitalized Malawians, of whom 32 had M. tuberculosis bloodstream infections (BSI) (10 of whom had cellular immune studies done) and of whom 48 were infants <6 months old and therefore recently vaccinated (19 of whom had immune studies). In the patients ≥6 months old, scarring was not related to the presence of pulmonary symptoms (35 versus 30%), chronic cough or fever, mortality, or M. tuberculosis BSI. In M. tuberculosis BSI patients, scarring was unrelated to mortality, vital signs, or clinical symptoms but those with scarring had higher proportions of memory and activated T cells and more type 2-skewed cytokine profiles. Infants with either BCG scarring (n = 10) or BCG lesional inflammation (n = 5) had no symptoms of sepsis, but 18 of 33 infants without BCG vaccination lesions did. Those with BCG lesions had localized infections more often than did those without BCG lesions. These infants also had lower median percentages of lymphocytes spontaneously making interleukin-4 (IL-4) or tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and lower ratios of T cells spontaneously making IL-4 to T cells making IL-6. Thus, we found that, in older patients, BCG vaccine scarring was not associated with M. tuberculosis-specific or nonspecific clinical protection. Those with M. tuberculosis BSI and scarring had immune findings suggesting previous M. tuberculosis antigen exposure and induction of a type 2 cytokine pattern with acute reexposure. It is unlikely that this type 2 pattern would be protective against mycobacteria, which require a type 1 response for effective containment. In infants <6 months old, recent BCG vaccination was associated with a non-M. tuberculosis-specific, anti-inflammatory cytokine profile. That the vaccinated infants had a greater frequency of localized infections and lesser frequency of sepsis symptoms suggests that this postvaccination cytokine pattern may provide some non-M. tuberculosis-specific clinical benefits.