image of Mass Azithromycin Distribution to Prevent Childhood Mortality: A Pooled Analysis of Cluster-Randomized Trials
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Mass drug administration (MDA) with azithromycin may reduce under-5 child mortality (U5M) in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, we conducted a pooled analysis of all published cluster-randomized trials evaluating the effect of azithromycin MDA on child mortality. We pooled data from cluster-randomized trials randomizing communities to azithromycin MDA versus control. We calculated mortality rates in the azithromycin and control arms in each study, and by country for multisite studies including multiple countries. We conducted a two-stage individual community data meta-analysis to estimate the effect of azithromycin for prevention of child mortality. Three randomized controlled trials in four countries (Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, and Tanzania) were identified. The overall pooled mortality rate was 15.9 per 1,000 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI]: 15.5–16.3). The pooled mortality rate was lower in azithromycin-treated communities than in placebo-treated communities (14.7 deaths per 1,000 person-years, 95% CI: 14.2–15.3 versus 17.2 deaths per 1,000 person-years, 95% CI: 16.5–17.8). There was a 14.4% reduction in all-cause child mortality in communities receiving azithromycin MDA (95% CI: 6.3–21.7% reduction, = 0.0007). All-cause U5M was lower in communities receiving azithromycin MDA than in control communities, suggesting that azithromycin MDA could be a new tool to reduce child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. However, heterogeneity in effect estimates suggests that the magnitude of the effect may vary in time and space and is currently not predictable.

[open-access] This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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  • Received : 22 Oct 2018
  • Accepted : 23 Nov 2018
  • Published online : 02 Jan 2019
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