WELLINGTON, March 8 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand researchers claimed Wednesday to have the first robust evidence to support school-based initiatives to prevent rheumatic fever.
The University of Auckland researchers said the study offered new initiatives for treating rheumatic fever in children, which had so far been derived from studies of adults in the United States armed forces.
Rheumatic fever in New Zealand affected mostly Maori and Pacific island children in low-socioeconomic areas, peaking in 9 and 10-year-olds, they said.
Globally, it was a disease of poverty in developing countries, and untreated episodes could lead to the disabling effects of rheumatic heart disease in children.
"In New Zealand, rheumatic fever has continued at an unacceptably high rate with hospitalization from this disease affecting about one in 150 Maori or Pacific island children aged under 13 years," lead researcher Professor Diana Lennon said in a statement.
"Life span in Maori adults with heart damage from rheumatic fever is reduced by more than 10 years."
The research was based on data collected from clinics providing access to sore throat management to more than 25,000 children a year in Auckland primary schools from 2010 to 2016.
The model used a team of school-based nurses and social workers operating clinics with daily assessment and treatment of group A streptococcal (strep A) sore throats in the children.
"In the latest study, we were able to demonstrate for the first time using robust methodology, that first presentation of acute rheumatic fever is preventable in a community setting and using oral amoxicillin," said Lennon.
Over two years of running the sore throat clinics, the rates of rheumatic fever dropped 58 percent, from 88 in 100,000 children to 37 in 100,000 children.
A parallel decline in strep A from throats was also found.
"We have demonstrated this 'proof of principle' -- the first both nationally and internationally -- supporting prevention of first presentation rheumatic fever through sore throat management delivered in school clinics," said Lennon.