An Intervention That Can Significantly Improve Child Health

The New England Journal of Medicine has published results from a new study showing that the use of an antibiotic significantly reduced mortality among children living in three low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Results of the study, which was led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that giving a single dose of a Pfizer oral antibiotic once every six months to children under 5 years old in Niger, Malawi and Tanzania reduced the overall number of child deaths by 13.5 percent. There was variation in results across countries with the largest mortality reduction occurring in Niger (18 percent), which has the highest child mortality rate of the three countries. Pfizer donated the orally-administered antibiotic and placebo for the study.

Additional studies are needed to further understand the antibiotic’s potential role in reducing child mortality around the world. Pfizer, which has donated more than 730 million doses of the same antibiotic as part of a partnership to help eliminate the neglected tropical disease trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness around the world, will continue working with academic investigators, partner organizations and other stakeholders to determine the best path forward as it pertains to the study results and public health impact.

“Pfizer takes pride in our innovative approach to partnerships that enables us to apply our full resources – our people, medicines and vaccines, and funding – to dynamically address global health challenges,” said Sally Susman, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Pfizer. “We look forward to continued collaboration to determine how Pfizer can support ongoing discussions of the implications of the study and future scientific investigation.”

The two-year randomized community study enrolled more than 190,000 children aged 1 month to 5 years old. In a subgroup analysis studying age effects, children aged 1 to 5 months had the largest reduction in mortality at 25 percent, although further studies are needed to determine the populations most likely to benefit from treatment.

“Reductions in mortality of this magnitude are promising and merit further exploration to determine how this antibiotic, which has been very effective in helping to combat trachoma, may play a role in reducing child mortality,” said Charles Knirsch, MD, MPH, vice president, Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development and an infectious diseases researcher who has helped lead Pfizer’s donation of antibiotic for the elimination of trachoma since 1997.

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