Background. Mass drug administration (MDA) with praziquantel is the cornerstone of schistosomiasis control in sub-Saharan Africa. The effectiveness of this strategy is dependent on the continued high efficacy of praziquantel; however, drug efficacy is rarely monitored using appropriate statistical approaches that can detect early signs of wane.
Methods. We conducted a repeated cross-sectional study, examining children infected with Schistosoma mansoni from 6 schools in Uganda that had previously received between 1 and 9 rounds of MDA with praziquantel. We collected up to 12 S. mansoni egg counts from 414 children aged 6–12 years before and 25–27 days after treatment with praziquantel. We estimated individual patient egg reduction rates (ERRs) using a statistical model to explore the influence of covariates, including the number of prior MDA rounds.
Results. The average ERR among children within schools that had received 8 or 9 previous rounds of MDA (95% Bayesian credible interval [BCI], 88.23%–93.64%) was statistically significantly lower than the average in schools that had received 5 rounds (95% BCI, 96.13%–99.08%) or 1 round (95% BCI, 95.51%–98.96%) of MDA. We estimate that 5.11%, 4.55%, and 16.42% of children from schools that had received 1, 5, and 8–9 rounds of MDA, respectively, had ERRs below the 90% threshold of optimal praziquantel efficacy set by the World Health Organization.
Conclusions. The reduced efficacy of praziquantel in schools with a higher exposure to MDA may pose a threat to the effectiveness of schistosomiasis control programs. We call for the efficacy of anthelmintic drugs used in MDA to be closely monitored.