BACKGROUND: Malaria and bacterial infections account for most infectious disease deaths in developing countries. Prompt treatment saves lives, but rapid deterioration often prevents the use of oral therapies; delays in reaching health facilities providing parenteral interventions are common. Rapidly and reliably absorbed antimalarial/antibacterial rectal formulations used in the community could prevent deaths and disabilities. Rectal antimalarial treatments are currently available; rectal antibacterial treatments are yet to be developed. Assessment of the likely cost-effectiveness of these interventions will inform research priorities and implementation. METHODS AND FINDINGS: The burden of malaria and bacterial infections worldwide and in Sub-Saharan and Southern Africa (SSA) and South and South-East Asia (SEA) was summarised using published data. The additional healthcare costs (US$) per death and per Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) avoided following pre-referral treatment of severe febrile illness with rectal antimalarials, antibacterials or combined antimalarial/antibacterials in populations at malaria risk in SSA/SEA were assessed. 46 million severe malaria and bacterial infections and 5 million deaths occur worldwide each year, mostly in SSA/SEA. At annual delivery costs of $0.02/capita and 100% coverage, rectal antimalarials ($2 per dose) would avert 240,000 deaths in SSA and 7,000 deaths in SEA at $5 and $177 per DALY avoided, respectively; rectal antibacterials ($2 per dose) would avert 130,000 deaths in SSA and 27,000 deaths in SEA at $19 and $97 per DALY avoided, respectively. Combined rectal formulations ($2.50 per dose) would avert 370,000 deaths in SSA and 33,000 deaths in SEA at $8 and $79 per DALY avoided, respectively, and are a cost-effective alternative to rectal antimalarials or antibacterials alone. CONCLUSIONS: Antimalarial, antibacterial and combined rectal formulations are likely to be cost-effective interventions for severe febrile illness in the community. Attention should focus on developing effective rectal antibacterials and ensuring that these lifesaving treatments are used in a cost-effective manner.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

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Administration, Rectal, Africa, Anti-Infective Agents, Antimalarials, Bacterial Infections, Child, Child, Preschool, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Fever, Health Care Costs, Health Services Accessibility, Humans, Malaria