The acceptability of intermittent screening and treatment versus intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy: results from a qualitative study in Northern Ghana

18 Nov 2014
Pell C, Meñaca A, Chatio S, Hodgson A, Tagbor H, Pool R.



Affecting mother and child, malaria during pregnancy (MiP) provokes a double morbidity and mortality burden. Within a package of interventions to prevent MiP in endemic areas, the WHO currently recommends intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp). Concerns about anti-malarial resistance have however prompted interest in intermittent screening and treating (IST) as an alternative approach to IPTp. IST involves screening for malaria infection at scheduled antenatal care (ANC) clinic visits and treating malaria cases. In light of the need to comprehensively evaluate new interventions prior to roll out, this article explores the acceptability of IST with artemether-lumefantrine (AL) compared to IPTp with sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) and in Upper East Region, northern Ghana.


Data were collected alongside an open-label, randomized, controlled trial of IST-AL and IPTp-SP in Kassena-Nankana District. Thirty pregnant women enrolled in the clinical trial participated in six focus group discussions. Ten in-depth interviews were carried out with clinical trial staff. Observations were also made at the health facilities where the clinical trial took place.


Trial participants were generally willing to endure the discomfort of the finger prick necessary for a rapid diagnostic test for malaria and this reflected a wider demand for diagnostic techniques. Reports of side effects were however linked to both trial anti-malarials. Direct complaints about SP were particularly severe with regard to women's experience of vomiting. Although the follow-up treatment doses of AL for IST were not supervised, based on blister inspection and questioning trial, staff were confident about participants' adherence to the treatment course. One case of partial adherence to the AL treatment course was reported.


Despite the discomfort of the finger prick required to perform the intermittent malaria screening, trial participants generally expressed more positive sentiments towards IST-AL than IPTp-SP. Nonetheless, questions remain about adherence to a multiple dose anti-malarial regimen during pregnancy, particularly in endemic areas where MiP is often non-symptomatic. Any implementation of IST must be accompanied by appropriate health messages on adherence and the necessary training for health staff regarding case management.