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1.  Introducing the concept of a new pre-referral treatment for severely ill febrile children at community level: a sociological approach in Guinea-Bissau 
Malaria Journal  2014;13:50.
Innovative strategies are needed to tackle childhood mortality in the rural tropics. Artesunate suppositories were developed to bring emergency treatment closer to severely ill children with malaria in rural areas where injectable treatment is not possible for several hours. Adding an antibacterial rectal drug would extend this strategy to treat non-malarial febrile illness as well. The objective of these studies was to assess acceptability of such a new pre-referral strategy by healthcare providers and likely uptake by the population.
Two qualitative studies were conducted between May and July 2009. Study 1 investigated the acceptability of introducing a combined antimalarial-antibacterial suppository by interviewing 27 representatives of the three administrative levels (central government, regional, local) of the health sector; Study 2 investigated treatment-seeking behaviour and acceptability of this intervention at community level by interviewing 74 mothers in 2 villages.
Results and Conclusions
Up to 92% of health representatives were in favour of introducing a new pre-referral strategy to tackle both malaria and non-malaria related severe illnesses in Guinea-Bissau, provided it was endorsed by international health authorities. The main obstacles to implementation were the very limited human and financial resources. In the two villages surveyed, 44% of the mothers associated severe illness with fever only, or fever plus one additional symptom. Mothers’ judgement of severity and ensuing decisions were not specific for serious illness, indicating that initial training to recognize signs of severe disease and treatment availability for non-severe, fever-associated symptoms will be required to prevent overuse of a new intervention designed as a pre-referral treatment for severely ill children. Level C health centres were the first resort in both villages (50% and 87% of respondents respectively). This information is encouraging for the implementation of a pre-referral treatment.
PMCID: PMC3922426  PMID: 24502695
Severe febrile illnesses; Malaria; Artesunate; Antibiotics; Rectal administration; Pre-referral treatment; Rural areas
2.  Chloroquine Is Grossly Under Dosed in Young Children with Malaria: Implications for Drug Resistance 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86801.
Plasmodium falciparum malaria is treated with 25 mg/kg of chloroquine (CQ) irrespective of age. Theoretically, CQ should be dosed according to body surface area (BSA). The effect of dosing CQ according to BSA has not been determined but doubling the dose per kg doubled the efficacy of CQ in children aged <15 years infected with P. falciparum carrying CQ resistance causing genes typical for Africa. The study aim was to determine the effect of age on CQ concentrations.
Methods and Findings
Day 7 whole blood CQ concentrations were determined in 150 and 302 children treated with 25 and 50 mg/kg, respectively, in previously conducted clinical trials. CQ concentrations normalised for the dose taken in mg/kg of CQ decreased with decreasing age (p<0.001). CQ concentrations normalised for dose taken in mg/m2 were unaffected by age. The median CQ concentration in children aged <2 years taking 50 mg/kg and in children aged 10–14 years taking 25 mg/kg were 825 (95% confidence interval [CI] 662–988) and 758 (95% CI 640–876) nmol/l, respectively (p = 0.67). The median CQ concentration in children aged 10–14 taking 50 mg/kg and children aged 0–2 taking 25 mg/kg were 1521 and 549 nmol/l. Adverse events were not age/concentration dependent.
CQ is under-dosed in children and should ideally be dosed according to BSA. Children aged <2 years need approximately double the dose per kg to attain CQ concentrations found in children aged 10–14 years. Clinical trials assessing the efficacy of CQ in Africa are typically performed in children aged <5 years. Thus the efficacy of CQ is typically assessed in children in whom CQ is under dosed. Approximately 3 fold higher drug concentrations can probably be safely given to the youngest children. As CQ resistance is concentration dependent an alternative dosing of CQ may overcome resistance in Africa.
PMCID: PMC3900653  PMID: 24466245
3.  Loss to follow-up occurs at all stages in the diagnostic and follow-up period among HIV-infected patients in Guinea-Bissau: a 7-year retrospective cohort study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(10):e003499.
To describe loss to follow-up (LTFU) at all stages of the HIV programme.
A retrospective cohort study.
The HIV clinic at Hospital National Simão Mendes in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.
A total of 4080 HIV-infected patients.
Outcome measures
Baseline characteristics, percentages and incidence rates of LTFU as well as LTFU risk factors at four different stages: immediately after HIV diagnosis (stage 1), after the first CD4 cell count and before a follow-up consultation (stage 2), after a follow-up consultation for patients not eligible for antiretroviral treatment (ART; stage 3) and LTFU among patients on ART (stage 4).
Almost one-third of the patients were lost to the programme before the first consultation where ART initiation is decided; during the 7-year observation period, more than half of the patients had been lost to follow-up (overall incidence rate=51.1 patients lost per 100 person-years). Age below 30 years at inclusion was a risk factor for LTFU at all stages of the HIV programme. The biggest risk factors were body mass index <18.5 kg/m2 (stage 1), male gender (stage 2), HIV-2 infection (stage 3) and CD4 cell count <200 cells/μL (stage 4).
In this study, LTFU constituted a major problem, and this may apply to other similar ART facilities. More than half of the patients were lost to follow-up shortly after enrolment, possibly implying a high mortality. Thus, retention should be given a high priority.
PMCID: PMC3808780  PMID: 24163204
4.  An analysis of two island groups as potential sites for trials of transgenic mosquitoes for malaria control 
Evolutionary Applications  2013;6(4):706-720.
Considerable technological advances have been made towards the generation of genetically modified mosquitoes for vector control. In contrast, less progress has been made towards field evaluations of transformed mosquitoes which are critical for evaluating the success of, and hazards associated with, genetic modification. Oceanic islands have been highlighted as potentially the best locations for such trials. However, population genetic studies are necessary to verify isolation. Here, we used a panel of genetic markers to assess for evidence of genetic isolation of two oceanic island populations of the African malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae s.s. We found no evidence of isolation between the Bijagós archipelago and mainland Guinea-Bissau, despite separation by distances beyond the known dispersal capabilities of this taxon. Conversely, the Comoros Islands appear to be genetically isolated from the East African mainland, and thus represent a location worthy of further investigation for field trials. Based on assessments of gene flow within and between the Comoros islands, the island of Grande Comore was found to be genetically isolated from adjacent islands and also exhibited local population structure, indicating that it may be the most suitable site for trials with existing genetic modification technologies.
PMCID: PMC3684749  PMID: 23789035
Anopheles gambiae; Bijagós; Comoros; genetically modified mosquitoes; island population; isolation
5.  Breakdown in the Process of Incipient Speciation in Anopheles gambiae 
Genetics  2013;193(4):1221-1231.
Understanding genetic causes and effects of speciation in sympatric populations of sexually reproducing eukaryotes is challenging, controversial, and of practical importance for controlling rapidly evolving pests and pathogens. The major African malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto (s.s.) is considered to contain two incipient species with strong reproductive isolation, hybrids between the M and S molecular forms being very rare. Following recent observations of higher proportions of hybrid forms at a few sites in West Africa, we conducted new surveys of 12 sites in four contiguous countries (The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Republic of Guinea). Identification and genotyping of 3499 A. gambiae s.s. revealed high frequencies of M/S hybrid forms at each site, ranging from 5 to 42%, and a large spectrum of inbreeding coefficient values from 0.11 to 0.76, spanning most of the range expected between the alternative extremes of panmixia and assortative mating. Year-round sampling over 2 years at one of the sites in The Gambia showed that M/S hybrid forms had similar relative frequencies throughout periods of marked seasonal variation in mosquito breeding and abundance. Genome-wide scans with an Affymetrix high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) microarray enabled replicate comparisons of pools of different molecular forms, in three separate populations. These showed strong differentiation between M and S forms only in the pericentromeric region of the X chromosome that contains the molecular form-specific marker locus, with only a few other loci showing minor differences. In the X chromosome, the M/S hybrid forms were more differentiated from M than from S forms, supporting a hypothesis of asymmetric introgression and backcrossing.
PMCID: PMC3606099  PMID: 23335339
Genomics; speciation; hybridization; introgression; mosquito
6.  Determinants of vitamin a deficiency in children between 6 months and 2 years of age in Guinea-Bissau 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:172.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Guinea-Bissau as having severe vitamin A deficiency (VAD). To date, no national survey has been conducted. We assessed vitamin A status among children in rural Guinea-Bissau to assess status and identify risk factors for VAD.
In a vitamin A supplementation trial in rural Guinea-Bissau, children aged 6 months to 2 years who were missing one or more vaccines were enrolled, vaccinated and randomized to vitamin A or placebo. Provided consent, a dried blood spot (DBS) sample was obtained from a subgroup of participants prior to supplementation. Vitamin A status and current infection was assessed by an ELISA measuring retinol-binding protein (RBP) and C-reactive protein (CRP). VAD was defined as RBP concentrations equivalent to plasma retinol <0.7 μmol/L; infection was defined as CRP >5 ml/L. In Poisson regression models providing prevalence ratios (PR), we investigated putative risk factors for VAD including sex, age, child factors, maternal factors, season (rainy: June-November; dry: December-May), geography, and use of health services.
Based on DBS from 1102 children, the VAD prevalence was 65.7% (95% confidence interval 62.9-68.5), 11% higher than the WHO estimate of 54.7% (9.9-93.0). If children with infection were excluded, the prevalence was 60.2% (56.7-63.7). In the age group 9–11 months, there was no difference in prevalence of VAD among children who had received previous vaccines in a timely fashion and those who had not. Controlled for infection and other determinants of VAD, the prevalence of VAD was 1.64 (1.49-1.81) times higher in the rainy season compared to the dry, and varied up to 2-fold between ethnic groups and regions. Compared with having an inactivated vaccine as the most recent vaccine, having a live vaccine as the most recent vaccination was associated with lower prevalence of VAD (PR=0.84 (0.74-0.96)).
The prevalence of VAD was high in rural Guinea-Bissau. VAD varied significantly with season, ethnicity, region, and vaccination status.
Trial registration NCT00514891
PMCID: PMC3599523  PMID: 23442248
Vitamin A deficiency; Children; Guinea-Bissau; Risk factors; Retinol-binding protein
7.  Fecal Carriage of ESBL-Producing E. coli and K. pneumoniae in Children in Guinea-Bissau: A Hospital-Based Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51981.
In recent years, the world has seen a surge in extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing bacteria. However, data on the dissemination of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae in the community from systematically enrolled study subjects in Africa remains limited. To determine the prevalence, phenotypic resistance patterns and genetic characteristics of ESBL-producing E. coli and K. pneumoniae in fecal carriage and to analyze associated risk factors in children attending a pediatric emergency department in Guinea-Bissau.
Methodology/Principal Findings
From June to September 2010, children <5 years of age with fever or tachycardia attending a pediatric emergency ward during the day was screened for ESBL carriage in feces. Socio-demographic and health seeking behavior data was collected. Antibiotic susceptibility was tested with VITEK2 and EUCAST disk diffusion method, molecular characterization of ESBL-encoding genes was performed with multiplex PCR and clonal relatedness was established by automated rep-PCR. Of 408 enrolled children 133 (32.6%) were ESBL carriers. In total, 83 E. coli and 91 K. pneumoniae ESBL-producing isolates were obtained. Nearly all isolates were multidrug-resistant. Co-resistance to ciprofloxacin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and aminoglycosides was common. Of the isolates, 38.5% were co-resistant to these classes plus extended-spectrum cephalosporins, which infers resistance to all easily available antibiotic agents for treatment of gram-negative sepsis in Guinea-Bissau. The predominant resistance-encoding gene subgroup was blaCTX-M-1 and epidemiologic typing showed that the bacterial ESBL population was highly diverse both for E. coli and K. pneumoniae. Bed sharing with another child <5 years of age was a risk factor for ESBL carriage, indicating crowding as a potential risk factor for transmission of ESBL-producing bacteria.
Prevalence of ESBL-producing bacteria in this population was high and clonally diverse. This is alarming considering the limited diagnostic and treatment possibilities in Guinea-Bissau and other resource-poor countries.
PMCID: PMC3527401  PMID: 23284838
8.  Asymmetric introgression between the M and S forms of the malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae, maintains divergence despite extensive hybridisation 
Molecular ecology  2011;20(23):4983-4994.
The suggestion that genetic divergence can arise and/or be maintained in the face of gene flow, has been contentious since first proposed. This controversy and a rarity of good examples has limited our understanding of this process. Partially reproductively isolated taxa have been highlighted as offering unique opportunities for identifying the mechanisms underlying divergence with gene flow. The African malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae s.s., is widely regarded as consisting of two sympatric forms, thought by many to represent incipient species, the M and S molecular forms. However, there has been much debate about the extent of reproductive isolation between M and S, with one view positing that divergence may have arisen and is being maintained in the presence of gene flow, and the other proposing a more advanced speciation process with little realised gene flow due to low hybrid fitness. These hypotheses have been difficult to address because hybrids are typically rare (<1%). Here, we assess samples from an area of high hybridisation and demonstrate that hybrids are fit and responsible for extensive introgression. Nonetheless, we show that strong divergent selection at a subset of loci combined with highly asymmetric introgression has enabled M and S to remain genetically differentiated despite extensive gene flow. We propose the extent of reproductive isolation between M and S varies across West Africa resulting in a “geographic mosaic of reproductive isolation”; a finding which adds further complexity to our understanding of divergence in this taxon and which has considerable implications for transgenic control strategies.
PMCID: PMC3222736  PMID: 22059383
Asymmetric introgression; sympatric speciation; malaria; ecological speciation; reproductive isolation
9.  Vaccination coverage and out-of-sequence vaccinations in rural Guinea-Bissau: an observational cohort study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(6):e001509.
The WHO aims for 90% coverage of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), which in Guinea-Bissau included BCG vaccine at birth, three doses of diphtheria−tetanus−pertussis vaccine (DTP) and oral polio vaccine (OPV) at 6, 10 and 14 weeks and measles vaccine (MV) at 9 months when this study was conducted. The WHO assesses coverage by 12 months of age. The sequence of vaccines may have an effect on child mortality, but is not considered in official statistics or assessments of programme performance. We assessed vaccination coverage and frequency of out-of-sequence vaccinations by 12 and 24 months of age.
Observational cohort study.
Setting and participants
The Bandim Health Project's (BHP) rural Health and Demographic Surveillance site covers 258 randomly selected villages in all regions of Guinea-Bissau. Villages are visited biannually and vaccination cards inspected to ascertain vaccination status. Between 2003 and 2009 vaccination status by 12 months of age was assessed for 5806 children aged 12–23 months; vaccination status by 24 months of age was assessed for 3792 children aged 24–35 months.
Outcome measures
Coverage of EPI vaccinations and frequency of out-of-sequence vaccinations.
Half of 12-month-old children and 65% of 24-month-old children had completed all EPI vaccinations. Many children received vaccines out of sequence: by 12 months of age 54% of BCG-vaccinated children had received DTP with or before BCG and 28% of measles-vaccinated children had received DTP with or after MV. By 24 months of age the proportion of out-of-sequence vaccinations was 58% and 35%, respectively, for BCG and MV.
In rural Guinea-Bissau vaccination coverage by 12 months of age was low, but continued to increase beyond 12 months of age. More than half of all children received vaccinations out of sequence. This highlights the need to improve vaccination services.
PMCID: PMC3532986  PMID: 23166127
10.  Urban Cholera Transmission Hotspots and Their Implications for Reactive Vaccination: Evidence from Bissau City, Guinea Bissau 
Use of cholera vaccines in response to epidemics (reactive vaccination) may provide an effective supplement to traditional control measures. In Haiti, reactive vaccination was considered but, until recently, rejected in part due to limited global supply of vaccine. Using Bissau City, Guinea-Bissau as a case study, we explore neighborhood-level transmission dynamics to understand if, with limited vaccine and likely delays, reactive vaccination can significantly change the course of a cholera epidemic.
Methods and Findings
We fit a spatially explicit meta-population model of cholera transmission within Bissau City to data from 7,551 suspected cholera cases from a 2008 epidemic. We estimated the effect reactive vaccination campaigns would have had on the epidemic under different levels of vaccine coverage and campaign start dates. We compared highly focused and diffuse strategies for distributing vaccine throughout the city. We found wide variation in the efficiency of cholera transmission both within and between areas of the city. “Hotspots”, where transmission was most efficient, appear to drive the epidemic. In particular one area, Bandim, was a necessary driver of the 2008 epidemic in Bissau City. If vaccine supply were limited but could have been distributed within the first 80 days of the epidemic, targeting vaccination at Bandim would have averted the most cases both within this area and throughout the city. Regardless of the distribution strategy used, timely distribution of vaccine in response to an ongoing cholera epidemic can prevent cases and save lives.
Reactive vaccination can be a useful tool for controlling cholera epidemics, especially in urban areas like Bissau City. Particular neighborhoods may be responsible for driving a city's cholera epidemic; timely and targeted reactive vaccination at such neighborhoods may be the most effective way to prevent cholera cases both within that neighborhood and throughout the city.
Author Summary
Cholera remains a major public health threat, causing 3–5 million cases and 100,000–120,000 deaths each year. In 2010, data on vaccine performance and the changing epidemiology of cholera prompted the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group to recommend that reactive vaccination be considered in specific areas. We built a spatially explicit stochastic model of cholera transmission and fit it to data from a 2008 epidemic in Bissau City, Guinea Bissau. Using this model we examined the potential effectiveness of reactive vaccination for controlling cholera transmission in Bissau City, comparing strategies for distributing limited vaccine. In simulations, early targeting of a single transmission “hotspot”, Bandim, was the most effective strategy, and led to the greatest reduction in cases both within Bandim and in areas where no vaccine was distributed. This finding has implications for cholera control in urban settings in general: public health officials will often know which areas of a city were hotspots of cholera transmission in the past or where conditions promote efficient transmission. When there is limited vaccine, our work suggests that targeting reactive vaccination at these areas will lead to the greatest reduction in cases both in these areas and elsewhere in the city.
PMCID: PMC3493445  PMID: 23145204
11.  Testing the hypothesis that diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis vaccine has negative non-specific and sex-differential effects on child survival in high-mortality countries 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e000707.
Measles vaccines (MV) have sex-differential effects on mortality not explained by protection against measles infection.
The authors examined whether whole-cell diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis (DTP) vaccine has sex-differential and non-specific effects.
Data sources and eligibility
Following previous reviews and a new search, the effect of DTP on mortality up to the next vaccination was assessed in all studies where DTP was given after BCG or DTP was given after MV and there was prospective follow-up after ascertainment of vaccination status.
High-mortality countries in Africa and Asia.
The initial observation of negative effect of DTP generated six hypotheses, which were examined in all available studies and two randomised trials reducing the time of exposure to DTP.
Main outcome
Consistency between studies.
In the first study, DTP had negative effects on survival in contrast to the beneficial effects of BCG and MV. This pattern was repeated in the six other studies available. Second, the two ‘natural experiments’ found significantly higher mortality for DTP-vaccinated compared with DTP-unvaccinated children. Third, the female–male mortality ratio was increased after DTP in all nine studies; in contrast, the ratio was decreased after BCG and MV in all studies. Fourth, the increased female mortality associated with high-titre measles vaccine was found only among children who had received DTP after high-titre measles vaccine. Fifth, in six randomised trials of early MV, female but not male mortality was increased if DTP was likely to be given after MV. Sixth, the mortality rate declined markedly for girls but not for boys when DTP-vaccinated children received MV. The authors reduced exposure to DTP as most recent vaccination by administering a live vaccine (MV and BCG) shortly after DTP. Both trials reduced child mortality.
These observations are incompatible with DTP merely protecting against the targeted diseases. With herd immunity to whooping cough, DTP is associated with higher mortality for girls. Randomised studies of DTP are warranted to measure the true impact on survival.
Article summary
Article focus
MV has sex-differential non-specific effects for child survival. We examined whether DTP vaccine has negative effects for survival, particularly for girls.
We tested six hypotheses suggesting that DTP may have negative health consequences if found to be true.
Furthermore, we conducted two randomised trials reducing the time of exposure to DTP as most recent vaccination by providing a live vaccine shortly after DTP.
Key messages
All available studies suggest that the effect of DTP on child survival is opposite of the effects of BCG and MV. In the two natural experiments, DTP-vaccinated children had significantly higher mortality than DTP-unvaccinated children.
Among DTP-vaccinated children, girls have higher mortality than boys in all studies, whereas the tendency is the opposite for BCG- and measles-vaccinated children. DTP administered after MV in randomised trials of MV is associated with increased female but not male mortality.
Reducing time of exposure to DTP as the most recent vaccination with BCG or MV reduce child mortality.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Since the healthiest children are vaccinated first, one would expect DTP to be associated with a benefit. However, all the data suggest consistently that DTP is associated with a negative effect for girls.
A randomised trial of the effect of DTP on overall survival could not be conducted. There is a need to conduct such studies now.
PMCID: PMC3364456  PMID: 22619263
12.  The emergence and current performance of a health research system: lessons from Guinea Bissau 
Little is known about how health research systems (HRS) in low-income countries emerge and evolve over time, and how this process relates to their performance. Understanding how HRSs emerge is important for the development of well functioning National Health Research Systems (NHRS). The aim of this study was to assess how the HRS in Guinea Bissau has emerged and evolved over time and how the present system functions.
We used a qualitative case-study methodology to explore the emergence and current performance of the HRS, using the NHRS framework. We reviewed documents and carried out 39 in-depth interviews, ranging from health research to policy and practice stakeholders. Using an iterative approach, we undertook a thematic analysis of the data.
The research practices in Guinea Bissau led to the emergence of a HRS with both local and international links and strong dependencies on international partners and donors. The post-colonial, volatile and resource-dependent context, changes in donor policies, training of local researchers and nature of the research findings influenced how the HRS evolved. Research priorities have mostly been set by 'expatriate' researchers and focused on understanding and reducing child mortality. Research funding is almost exclusively provided by foreign donors and international agencies. The training of Guinean researchers started in the mid-nineties and has since reinforced the links with the health system, broadened the research agenda and enhanced local use of research. While some studies have made an important contribution to global health, the use of research within Guinea Bissau has been constrained by the weak and donor dependent health system, volatile government, top-down policies of international agencies, and the controversial nature of some of the research findings.
In Guinea Bissau a de facto 'system' of research has emerged through research practices and co-evolving national and international research and development dynamics. If the aim of research is to contribute to local decision making, it is essential to modulate the emerged system by setting national research priorities, aligning funding, building national research capacity and linking research to decision making processes. Donors and international agencies can contribute to this process by coordinating their efforts and aligning to national priorities.
PMCID: PMC3295730  PMID: 22321566
13.  Similar Efficacy and Tolerability of Double-Dose Chloroquine and Artemether-Lumefantrine for Treatment of Plasmodium falciparum Infection in Guinea-Bissau: A Randomized Trial 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;203(1):109-116.
Background. In 2008, Guinea-Bissau introduced artemether-lumefantrine for treatment of uncomplicated malaria. Previously, 3 times the standard dose of chloroquine, that was probably efficacious against Plasmodium falciparum with the resistance-associated chloroquine-resistance transporter (pfcrt) 76T allele, was routinely used. The present study compared the efficacy and tolerability of a double standard dose of chloroquine with the efficacy and tolerability of artemether-lumefantrine.
Methods. In a randomized open-label clinical trial, artemether-lumefantrine or chloroquine (50 mg/kg) were given as 6 divided doses over 3 days to children aged 6 months - 15 years who had uncomplicated P. falciparum monoinfection. Drug concentrations were measured on day 7. P. falciparum multidrug resistance gene N86Y and pfcrt K76T alleles were identified.
Results. The polymerase chain reaction–adjusted day 28 and 42 treatment efficacies were 162 (97%) of 168 and 155 (97%) of 161, respectively, for artemether-lumefantrine and 150 (95%) of 158 and 138 (94%) of 148, respectively, for chloroquine. When parasites with resistance-associated pfcrt 76T were treated, the day 28 efficacy of chloroquine was 87%. No severe drug-related adverse events were detected. Symptom resolution was similar with both treatments.
Conclusions. Both treatments achieved the World Health Organization–recommended efficacy for antimalarials that will be adopted as policy. High-dose chloroquine treatment regimes should be further evaluated with the aim of assessing chloroquine as a potential partner drug to artemisinin derivatives.
Clinical trials registration. NCT00426439
PMCID: PMC3086436  PMID: 21148503
14.  The Effect of 50 000 IU Vitamin A with BCG Vaccine at Birth on Growth in the First Year of Life 
Journal of Tropical Medicine  2011;2011:570170.
Vitamin A supplements may interact with diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine causing increased female mortality. In a randomised trial of neonatal vitamin A supplementation (VAS), we examined growth during the first year of life in 808 children, pursuing the hypothesis that a negative interaction between VAS and DTP in girls would be reflected in growth. Length and weight were measured at 6 weekly visits and WHO-growth-reference z-scores derived. Neonatal VAS had no effect on anthropometric measures at 12 months, but may interact sex differentially with routine vaccines. While BCG was the most recent vaccine, neonatal VAS benefitted growth (difference in weight-for-length z-score (dWFL: 0.31(95% CI: 0.03–0.59)). While DTP was the most recent vaccine, VAS tended to affect growth adversely in girls (dWFL = −0.21 (−0.48–0.06)). After measles vaccine (MV) there was no overall effect of neonatal VAS. The VAS effect differed significantly between the BCG and DTP windows (P = 0.03), and the difference was borderline significant between the DTP and MV windows for girls (P = 0.09).
PMCID: PMC3170791  PMID: 21912559
15.  The impact of different doses of vitamin A supplementation on male and female mortality. A randomised trial from Guinea-Bissau 
BMC Pediatrics  2011;11:77.
Vitamin A supplementation (VAS) given to children between 6 months and 5 years of age is known to reduce mortality in low-income countries. We have previously observed that girls benefit more from a lower dose of VAS than the one recommended by WHO, the effect being strongest if diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine (DTP) was the most recent vaccination. We aimed to test these observations.
During national immunisations days in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, combining oral polio vaccination and VAS, we randomised 8626 children between 6 months and 5 years of age to receive the dose of VAS recommended by WHO or half this dose. Mortality rate ratios (MRRs) were assessed after 6 and 12 month.
The overall mortality rate among participants was lower than expected. There was no significant difference in mortality at 6 months and 12 months of follow up between the low dose VAS group and the recommended dose VAS group. The MRRs were 1.23 (0.60-2.54) after 6 months and 1.17 (0.73-1.87) after 12 months. This tendency was similar in boys and girls. The low dose was not associated with lower mortality in girls if the most recent vaccine was DTP (MRR = 0.60 (0.14-2.50) after 6 months).
Our sample size does not permit firm conclusions since mortality was lower than expected. We could not confirm a beneficial effect of a lower dose of VAS on mortality in girls.
Trial registration
The study was registered under, number NCT00168636
PMCID: PMC3175170  PMID: 21884606
16.  Vitamin A Supplementation at Birth Might Prime the Response to Subsequent Vitamin A Supplements in Girls. Three Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Trial 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23265.
Within a randomised trial of neonatal vitamin A supplementation (VAS) in Guinea-Bissau, neonatal VAS did not affect overall infant mortality. We conducted a post-hoc analysis to test the hypothesis that neonatal VAS primes the response to subsequent vitamin A.
All trial children were offered VAS after follow-up ended at 1 year of age (FU-VAS). We compared mortality between 1 and 3 years of age according to initial randomization to neonatal VAS or placebo in Cox-regression models; we expected that children randomized to neonatal VAS compared with those randomized to placebo would have lower mortality after reception of FU-VAS.
Of 4345 infants enrolled in the original trial, 3646 lived in the study area at 1 year of age and 2958 received FU-VAS. Between 1 and 3 years of age, 112 children died. After FU-VAS, neonatal VAS was associated with lower mortality than placebo: Mortality Rate Ratio (MRR) = 0.54 (95%CI: 0.31–0.94). The effect was more pronounced in girls (MRR = 0.37 (0.16–0.89)) than boys (MRR = 0.73 (0.35–1.51)). The beneficial effect of neonatal VAS may have been particularly strong for girls who received both VAS in a campaign and FU-VAS (MRR = 0.15 (0.03–0.67)). Among children who had not received FU-VAS, mortality in the second and third year of life did not differ according to reception of neonatal VAS or placebo. Hence, in the second and third year of life the effect of neonatal VAS versus placebo was different in girls who had or had not received FU-VAS (p for homogeneity = 0.01).
The present results suggest that neonatal VAS primes the response in girls such that they get a beneficial effect after a subsequent dose of VAS.
Trial Registration NCT00168597
PMCID: PMC3154934  PMID: 21853099
17.  Paracetamol versus placebo in treatment of non-severe malaria in children in Guinea-Bissau: a randomized controlled trial 
Malaria Journal  2011;10:148.
The current guidelines for treatment of malaria include paracetamol to children with fever. No convincing evidence for the beneficial effects of this practice exists. Studies show that time to parasite clearance is significantly longer in children treated with paracetamol, which questions the policy. Whether this is of clinical importance has not been investigated.
Children with Plasmodium falciparum monoinfection and ≥20 parasites per 200 leucocytes at the Bandim Health Centre, Guinea-Bissau were randomized to receive paracetamol or placebo together with chloroquine for three days in a double blind randomized study. Temperature and symptoms were recorded twice daily during treatment and on day 3. The participants were interviewed and a malaria film taken once weekly until day 35. The data is in the form of grouped failure-times, the outcome of interest being time until parasitaemia during follow-up. Mantel-Haenszel weighted odds ratios are given. Other differences between and within the two groups have been tested using the Chi-square test and Mann-Whitney U test.
In the evening of the day of inclusion, the temperature was slightly, but statistically insignificant, higher in the placebo group and significantly more children complained of headache. At no other time was a significant difference in temperature or symptoms detected. However, 6 children from the placebo-group as compared to two children from the paracetamol-group were admitted to hospital with high fever and convulsions by day 3. No differences in the cumulative percentages of children with adequate clinical and parasitological response were found in the intention-to-treat analysis or in the per-protocol analysis.
Fewer children had early treatment failure and the mean temperature was slightly lower in the afternoon on day 0 in the paracetamol group. However, the cumulative adequate clinical and parasitological cure rates were not significantly different during the period of study. It is doubtful whether adding paracetamol to the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in children is beneficial.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3123603  PMID: 21631932
18.  Non-specific effects of standard measles vaccine at 4.5 and 9 months of age on childhood mortality: randomised controlled trial 
Objective To examine in a randomised trial whether a 25% difference in mortality exists between 4.5 months and 3 years of age for children given two standard doses of Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccines at 4.5 and 9 months of age compared with those given one dose of measles vaccine at 9 months of age (current policy).
Design Randomised controlled trial.
Setting The Bandim Health Project, Guinea-Bissau, which maintains a health and demographic surveillance system in an urban area.
Participants 6648 children aged 4.5 months of age who had received three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine at least four weeks before enrolment. A large proportion of the children (80%) had previously taken part in randomised trials of neonatal vitamin A supplementation.
Intervention Children were randomised to receive Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine at 4.5 and 9 months of age (group A), no vaccine at 4.5 months and Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine at 9 months of age (group B), or no vaccine at 4.5 months and Schwarz measles vaccine at 9 months of age (group C).
Main outcome measure Mortality rate ratio between 4.5 and 36 months of age for group A compared with groups B and C. Secondary outcomes tested the hypothesis that the beneficial effect was stronger in the 4.5 to 9 months age group, in girls, and in the dry season, but the study was not powered to test whether effects differed significantly between subgroups.
Results In the intention to treat analysis of mortality between 4.5 and 36 months of age the mortality rate ratio of children who received two doses of Edmonston-Zagreb vaccine at 4.5 and 9 months of age compared with those who received a single dose of Edmonston-Zagreb vaccine or Schwarz vaccine at 9 months of age was 0.78 (95% confidence interval 0.59 to 1.05). In the analyses of secondary outcomes, the intention to treat mortality rate ratio was 0.67 (0.38 to 1.19) between 4.5 and 9 months and 0.83 (0.83 to 1.16) between 9 and 36 months of age. The effect on mortality between 4.5 and 36 months of age was significant for girls (intention to treat mortality rate ratio 0.64 (0.42 to 0.98)), although this was not significantly different from the effect in boys (0.95 (0.64 to 1.42)) (interaction test, P=0.18). The effect did not differ between the dry season and the rainy season. As neonatal vitamin A supplementation is not WHO policy, the analyses were done separately for the 3402 children who did not receive neonatal vitamin A. In these children, the two dose Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine schedule was associated with a significantly lower mortality between 4.5 and 36 months of age (intention to treat mortality rate ratio 0.59 (0.39 to 0.89)). The effect was again significant for girls but not statistically significant from the effect in boys. When measles cases were censored, the intention to treat mortality rate ratio was 0.65 (0.43 to 0.99).
Conclusions Although the overall effect did not reach statistical significance, the results may indicate that a two dose schedule with Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine given at 4.5 and 9 months of age has beneficial non-specific effects on children’s survival, particularly for girls and for children who have not received neonatal vitamin A. This should be tested in future studies in different locations.
Trial registration Clinical trials NCT00168558.
PMCID: PMC2994348  PMID: 21118875
19.  Effect of revaccination with BCG in early childhood on mortality: randomised trial in Guinea-Bissau 
Objective To determine whether BCG revaccination at 19 months of age reduces overall child mortality.
Design Randomised trial, with follow-up to age 5.
Setting A health project in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, which maintains a health and demographic surveillance system in an urban area with 90 000 inhabitants.
Participants 2871 children aged 19 months to 5 years with low or no reactivity to tuberculin and who were not severely sick on the day of enrolment.
Intervention BCG vaccination or no vaccination (control).
Main outcome measure Hazard ratios for mortality.
Results 77 children died during follow-up. Compared with controls, the BCG revaccinated children had a hazard ratio of 1.20 (95% confidence interval 0.77 to 1.89). Two hundred and fifty children were admitted to hospital for the first time between enrolment and the end of the study, with an incidence rate ratio for BCG revaccinated children versus controls of 1.04 (0.81 to 1.33). The trial was stopped prematurely because of a cluster of deaths in the BCG arm of the study. This increase in mortality occurred at a time when many children had received missing vaccinations or vitamin A or iron supplementation; the hazard ratio for BCG revaccinated children compared with controls was 2.69 (1.05 to 6.88) in the period after these campaigns. Throughout the trial, the effect of BCG revaccination on mortality was significantly different (P=0.006) in children who had received diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) booster vaccination before enrolment (hazard ratio 0.36, 0.13 to 0.99) and children who had not received the booster before enrolment (1.78, 1.04 to 3.04).
Conclusions There was no overall beneficial effect of being revaccinated with BCG. The effect of BCG revaccination on mortality might depend on other health interventions.
Trial registration Clinical Trials ICA4-CT-2002-10053-REVAC.
PMCID: PMC2839082  PMID: 20231251
20.  Vitamin A supplementation and BCG vaccination at birth in low birthweight neonates: two by two factorial randomised controlled trial 
Objective To investigate the effect of vitamin A supplementation and BCG vaccination at birth in low birthweight neonates.
Design Randomised, placebo controlled, two by two factorial trial.
Setting Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.
Participants 1717 low birthweight neonates born at the national hospital.
Intervention Neonates who weighed less than 2.5 kg were randomly assigned to 25 000 IU vitamin A or placebo, as well as to early BCG vaccine or the usual late BCG vaccine, and were followed until age 12 months.
Main outcome measure Mortality, calculated as mortality rate ratios (MRRs), after follow-up to 12 months of age for infants who received vitamin A supplementation compared with those who received placebo.
Results No interaction was observed between vitamin A supplementation and BCG vaccine allocation (P=0.73). Vitamin A supplementation at birth was not significantly associated with mortality: the MRR of vitamin A supplementation compared with placebo, controlled for randomisation to “early BCG” versus “no early BCG” was 1.08 (95% CI 0.79 to 1.47). Stratification by sex revealed a significant interaction between vitamin A supplementation and sex (P=0.046), the MRR of vitamin A supplementation being 0.74 (95% CI 0.45 to 1.22) in boys and 1.42 (95% CI 0.94 to 2.15) in girls. When these data were combined with data from a complementary trial among normal birthweight neonates in Guinea-Bissau, the combined estimate of the effect of neonatal vitamin A supplementation on mortality was 1.08 (95% CI 0.87 to 1.33); 0.80 (95% CI 0.58 to 1.10) in boys and 1.41 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.90) in girls (P=0.01 for interaction between neonatal vitamin A and sex).
Conclusions The combined results of this trial and the complementary trial among normal birthweight neonates have now shown that, overall, it would not be beneficial to implement a neonatal vitamin A supplementation policy in Guinea-Bissau. Worryingly, the trials show that vitamin A supplementation at birth can be harmful in girls. Previous studies and future trials should investigate the possibility that vitamin A supplementation has sex differential effects.
Trial registration NCT00168610.
PMCID: PMC2835853  PMID: 20215360
21.  No Seasonal Accumulation of Resistant P. falciparum when High-Dose Chloroquine Is Used 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6866.
Potentially chloroquine resistant P. falciparum, identified by the 76T haplotype in the chloroquine resistance transporter (pfcrt 76T), are highly prevalent throughout Africa. In Guinea-Bissau, normal and double dose chloroquine have respective efficacies of 34% and 78% against P.falciparum with pfcrt 76T and approximately three times the normal dose of chloroquine is routinely taken. Proportions of pfcrt 76T generally increase during high transmission seasons, as P.falciparum with pfcrt 76T commonly survive treatment with normal dose chloroquine. In Guinea-Bissau, there should be no seasonal increase of pfcrt 76T if the high doses of CQ commonly used are effective.
Methods and Findings
P. falciparum parasite density, age, sex, the proportion of chloroquine resistance associated haplotypes pfcrt 76T and P. falciparum multidrug resistance gene 1 86Y were assessed in 988 samples collected from children between 2002 and 2007. There was no seasonal accumulation of any allele. During the high and low transmission periods the pfcrt 76T proportions were 24% (95% CI, 21–27%) and 26% (95% CI, 20–33%). There was no significant change of pfcrt 76T (OR 1.05, 95% CI; 0.94–1.16 p = 0.39) or pfmdr1 86Y (OR 0.92, 95%CI; 0.83–1.01 p = 0.08) proportions between 2003 and 2007. Lower median parasite density (P.falciparum/µl) was associated with pfcrt 76T (15254 [95% CI, 12737–17772]; n = 164) compared to pfcrt 76K (18664 [95% CI, 16676–20653]; p = 0.003; n = 591). Similarly, pfmdr1 86Y was associated with a lower median parasite density (16320 [95% CI, 13696–18944]; n = 224) compared to pfmdr1 86N, (18880 [95% CI, 16701–21059]; P = 0.018; n = 445).
In contrast to the rest of Africa, P. falciparum parasites resistant to normal dose chloroquine do not have a selective advantage great enough to become the dominant P.falciparum type in Guinea-Bissau. This is most likely due to the efficacy of high-dose chloroquine as used in Guinea-Bissau, combined with a loss of fitness associated with pfcrt 76T.
PMCID: PMC2729929  PMID: 19718439
22.  Chloroquine Is Grossly Overdosed and Overused but Well Tolerated in Guinea-Bissau▿  
High chloroquine doses are commonly prescribed in Guinea-Bissau. Double-dose chloroquine has been shown to be more efficacious (92% efficacy) than the standard dose (80% efficacy). However, chloroquine is toxic when overdosed, and it was not known if the high doses prescribed in Guinea-Bissau were taken or whether they caused adverse effects. We aimed to determine the dosage of chloroquine commonly prescribed, the doses commonly taken, and whether concentration-dependent adverse events occurred in routine practice. Chloroquine prescriptions by eight physicians and chloroquine intake by 102 children were recorded. Chloroquine intake and adverse events were assessed by questioning. Chloroquine concentrations in whole blood were measured. The median total chloroquine dose prescribed and that reportedly taken were 81 and 77 mg kg−1, respectively. The total dose was usually split into two to three daily doses of 6.6 mg kg−1 each. These were taken unsupervised for a median of 5 days. Forty percent of the study children had chloroquine concentrations in the same range as those found in a previous study in which double the normal dose (50 mg kg−1) of chloroquine was taken. Only 3/102 children had Plasmodium falciparum in the blood at the time of diagnosis and treatment. No severe adverse events were reported. No adverse events were associated with higher chloroquine concentrations. High doses of chloroquine are commonly taken and well tolerated in Guinea-Bissau. Malaria diagnostics are poor, and chloroquine is commonly prescribed to children without parasitemia. Use of high-dose chloroquine is concurrent with an exceptionally low prevalence of chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum.
PMCID: PMC2612162  PMID: 18955514
23.  Sex-Differential Effect on Infant Mortality of Oral Polio Vaccine Administered with BCG at Birth in Guinea-Bissau. A Natural Experiment 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(12):e4056.
The policy to provide oral polio vaccine (OPV) at birth was introduced in low-income countries to increase coverage. The effect of OPV at birth on overall child mortality was never studied. During a trial of vitamin A supplementation (VAS) at birth in Guinea-Bissau, OPV was not available during several periods. We took advantage of this “natural experiment” to test the effect on mortality of receiving OPV at birth.
Between 2002 and 2004, the VAS trial randomised normal-birth-weight infants to 50,000 IU VAS or placebo administered with BCG. Provision of OPV at birth was not part of the trial, but we noted whether the infants received OPV or not. OPV was missing during several periods in 2004. We used Cox proportional hazards models to compute mortality rate ratios (MRR) of children who had received or not received OPV at birth.
Principal Findings
A total of 962 (22.1%) of the 4345 enrolled children did not receive OPV at birth; 179 children died within the first year of life. Missing OPV at birth was associated with a tendency for decreased mortality (adjusted MRR = 0.69 (95% CI = 0.46–1.03)), the effect being similar among recipients of VAS and placebo. There was a highly significant interaction between OPV at birth and sex (p = 0.006). Not receiving OPV at birth was associated with a weak tendency for increased mortality in girls (1.14 (0.70–1.89)) but significantly decreased mortality in boys (0.35 (0.18–0.71)).
In our study OPV at birth had a sex-differential effect on mortality. Poliovirus is almost eradicated and OPV at birth contributes little to herd immunity. A randomised study of the effect of OPV at birth on overall mortality in both sexes is warranted.
PMCID: PMC2605256  PMID: 19112511
24.  The effect of vitamin A supplementation administered with missing vaccines during national immunization days in Guinea-Bissau 
Background WHO recommends high-dose Vitamin A supplementation (VAS) at vaccination contacts after 6 months of age. It has not been studied whether the effect of VAS on mortality depends on the type of vaccine. We have hypothesized that VAS administered with measles vaccine (MV) is more beneficial than VAS with diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis (DTP) vaccine. We assessed the effect of VAS administered with different vaccines during national immunization days (NIDs).
Methods In 2003, VAS was distributed during NIDs in Guinea-Bissau. Children 6 months or older were given VAS, and if they were missing vaccines, these were often given as well. We compared survival between children who had received VAS alone, VAS with DTP or DTP + MV, or VAS with MV. We also compared the survival between participants and non-participants. We followed 6- to 17-month old children until 18 months of age and analysed survival in Cox models.
Results Twenty of 982 VAS-recipients died during follow-up. The mortality rate ratio (MRR) for VAS with DTP + MV or VAS with DTP was 3.43 (1.36–8.61) compared with VAS only. There were no deaths among those who received VAS with MV alone (P = 0.0005 for homogeneity of VAS effects). Children who received VAS with DTP had higher mortality than non-participants who did not receive VAS [MRR = 3.04 (1.31–7.07)].
Conclusion The study design does not allow for definite conclusions. However, the results are compatible with our a priori hypothesis that VAS is more beneficial when given with MV and potentially harmful when given with DTP. Randomized trials testing the impact on mortality of the current WHO policy seem warranted.
PMCID: PMC2639368  PMID: 18796481
Vitamin A; diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis vaccine; measles vaccine; child mortality; low income populations
25.  Protective efficacy of standard Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccination in infants aged 4.5 months: interim analysis of a randomised clinical trial 
Objective To examine the protective efficacy of measles vaccination in infants in a low income country before 9 months of age.
Design Randomised clinical trial.
Participants 1333 infants aged 4.5 months: 441 in treatment group and 892 in control group.
Setting Urban area in Guinea-Bissau.
Intervention Measles vaccination using standard titre Edmonston-Zagreb vaccine at 4.5 months of age.
Main outcome measures Vaccine efficacy against measles infection, admission to hospital for measles, and measles mortality before standard vaccination at 9 months of age.
Results 28% of the children tested at 4.5 months of age had protective levels of maternal antibodies against measles at enrolment. After early vaccination against measles 92% had measles antibodies at 9 months of age. A measles outbreak offered a unique situation for testing the efficacy of early measles vaccination. During the outbreak, 96 children developed measles; 19% of unvaccinated children had measles before 9 months of age. The monthly incidence of measles among the 441 children enrolled in the treatment arm was 0.7% and among the 892 enrolled in the control arm was 3.1%. Early vaccination with the Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine prevented infection; vaccine efficacy for children with serologically confirmed measles and definite clinical measles was 94% (95% confidence interval 77% to 99%), for admissions to hospital for measles was 100% (46% to 100%), and for measles mortality was 100% (−42% to 100%). The number needed to treat to prevent one case of measles between ages 4.5 months and 9 months during the epidemic was 7.2 (6.8 to 9.2). The treatment group tended to have lower overall mortality (mortality rate ratio 0.18, 0.02 to 1.36) although this was not significant.
Conclusions In low income countries, maternal antibody levels against measles may be low and severe outbreaks of measles can occur in infants before the recommended age of vaccination at 9 months. Outbreaks of measles may be curtailed by measles vaccination using the Edmonston-Zagreb vaccine as early as 4.5 months of age.
Trial registration Clinical Trials NCT00168558 [].
PMCID: PMC2500198  PMID: 18653640

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