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This study is embedded to PYRAPREG study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was developed with the support of the work package 4 (capacity building) and it is led by Dr Vivi Maketa, who obtained an EDCTP grant and Novartis (reference: TMA2019CDF-2699) for career development. The very first participant was enrolled on 6th May 2021.

Comparison of intermittent screening (using ultra-sensitive malaria Rapid Diagnostic test) and treatment (using a newly registered antimalarial Pyronaridine – Artesunate – PYRAMAX®) to standard intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for the prevention of malaria in pregnant women living in endemic areas.

Japhet Kabalu and Flory Luzolo in the lab at the Univ Amsterdam

In endemic settings Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) can sequester in the placenta resulting in low peripheral parasitemia and false negative malaria diagnosis in pregnant women. Intermittent Preventive Treatment in pregnant women with Sulphadoxine-Pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP) is one of the World Health Organization’s recommended malaria control strategies in sub-Saharan African countries.

The strategy overcomes the risk of misdiagnosis of malaria in pregnant women by treating them all with SP according to predetermined schedules, but the strategy is now threatened by the spread of Plasmodium parasite resistant strains.

As a necessary alternative, Intermittent Screening and Treatment in pregnancy (ISTp), aims on the monthly screening of pregnant women with a malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and the treatment of positive cases with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) regardless of the presence of symptoms. The ISTp depends on the performance of the diagnostic tests, and the use of ultrasensitive RDTs (us-RDTs), which have a higher analytical sensitivity than conventional RDTs, should improve the efficacy of the strategy.

Unlike IPTp-SP, ISTp prevents overuse of antimalarials and thus limits drug pressure on malaria parasites. This advantage could be potentiated by using, for pregnant women, an ACT that is not yet used or should not be used in the field for other strata of the population. The recently approved new ACT combination, Pyronaridine – Artesunate (Pyramax®) is the ideal candidate for this purpose.

This study will compare the effects of the ISTp using an us-RDT and Pyramax® (ISTp-US-Py) with the standard IPTp-SP on maternal malaria indicators (malaria infection, parasite density), maternal anemia, spontaneous abortions or intrauterine deaths during pregnancy, fetal morbidity (preterm birth, low birth weight, small for gestational age) and neonatal mortality at delivery in both study groups through conducting a randomized clinical trial enrolling second trimester pregnant women in Maternité Esengo Health Center, located in Kisenso, Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a malaria perennial transmission area.

The results generated from this study will be essential for the National Malaria Control Program in the selection and implementation of new malaria control policies and addresses the effectiveness of IPTp-SP decline among pregnant women in the DRC and other endemic countries.

Vivi Maketa, PI of Ultrapyrapreg


In June and July 2022, Flory Luzolo the study site coordinator of ULTRAPYRAPREG, accompanied by Japhet Kabalu (the study site Coordinator of PYRAPREG DRC) spent a research stay at the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam, where they learned some technics of molecular biology.

They processed the dried blood samples collected in the frame of the study using the quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR).