Background. Urogenital schistosomiasis is a major public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, and routine programs for screening and treatment of pregnant women are not established. Mefloquine—currently evaluated as a potential alternative to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine as intermittent preventive treatment against malaria in pregnancy (IPTp)—is known to exhibit activity against Schistosoma haematobium. In this study we evaluated the efficacy of mefloquine IPTp against S. haematobium infection in pregnant women.
Methods. Pregnant women with S. haematobium infection presenting at 2 antenatal health care centers in rural Gabon were invited to participate in this nested randomized controlled, assessor-blinded clinical trial comparing sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine with mefloquine IPTp. Study drugs were administered twice during pregnancy with a 1- month interval after completion of the first trimester.
Results. Sixty-five pregnant women were included in this study. Schistosoma haematobium egg excretion rates showed a median reduction of 98% (interquartile range [IQR], 70%–100%) in the mefloquine group compared to an increase of 20% (IQR, −186% to 75%) in the comparator group. More than 80% of patients showed at least 50% reduction of egg excretion and overall cure rate was 47% (IQR, 36%–70%) 6 weeks after the second administration of mefloquine IPTp.
Conclusion. When used as IPTp for the prevention of malaria, mefloquine shows promising activity against concomitant S. haematobium infection leading to an important reduction of egg excretion in pregnant women. Provided that further studies confirm these findings, the use of mefloquine may transform future IPTp programs into a 2-pronged intervention addressing 2 of the most virulent parasitic infections in pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.
Clinical Trials Registration. NCT01132248; ATMR2010020001429343.