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Background: Malaria is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world and particularly sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization and many national bodies, including Burundi, recommend artemisinin-based therapy as first-line treatment for uncomplicated and severe malaria. Implementing this recommendation requires healthcare professionals’ acceptance of this treatment as the optimal choice.
Methods: A survey was conducted among Burundian healthcare professionals from June to September 2017 to assess prescribing preferences regarding artemisinins versus quinine for treating malaria. Healthcare professionals were surveyed from 32 health facilities in 10 provinces. Respondents included both physicians and nurses who provided responses about their antimalarial treatment preferences for a variety of clinical scenarios. Comparisons among healthcare professionals, their level of training, work setting, and length of work experience were examined using a series of stratified analyses, where the Pearson Chi-square statistic and odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Results: Respondents included 101 doctors and 196 nurses. Seventy-nine percent of respondents worked in hospitals, while 58% had more than 5 years of work experience. Although 94% of respondents correctly identified artemisinin-based treatment as first-line therapy according to the national protocol, 24-40% of respondents preferred the use of quinine in various hypothetical clinical scenarios. Overall, nurses were at greater odds of preferring quinine versus artemisinins compared with physicians. Availability of artemisinins was associated positively with artemisinin preference. These results did not vary by duration of work experience.
Conclusions: Though knowledge of artemisinin-based therapy was recognised by the majority of respondents as the recommended antimalarial treatment, a high proportion of Burundian healthcare professionals, especially nurses, prefer using oral and IV quinine in a number of clinical scenarios. These findings identify a significant barrier to the satisfactory implementation of a life-saving treatment in accordance with national and international recommendations.