In the Maheba Refugee Settlement, in the clinics supported by Medecins Sans Frontieres, all children aged up to 5 years with a confirmed diagnosis of uncomplicated falciparum malaria are treated with the combination of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (SP) and artesunate (AS). We compared the treatment's efficacy and effectiveness. Patients were randomized in order to receive the treatment supervised (efficacy) or unsupervised (effectiveness). Therapeutic response was determined after 28 days of follow up. The difference between recrudescence and re-infection was ascertained by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We also assessed genetic markers associated to SP resistance (dhfr and dhps). Eighty-five patients received treatment under supervision and 84 received it unsupervised. On day 28, and after PCR adjustment, efficacy was found to be 83.5% (95% CI: 74.1-90.5), and effectiveness 63.4% (95% CI: 52.6-73.3) (P < 0.01). Point mutations on dhfr (108) and dhps (437) were found for 92.0% and 44.2% respectively of the PCR samples analysed. The significant difference in therapeutic response after supervised and unsupervised treatment intake can only be explained by insufficient patient adherence. When implementing new malaria treatment policies, serious investment in ensuring patient adherence is essential to ascertain the effectiveness of the new treatment schedules
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