A simplified, combined protocol versus standard treatment for acute malnutrition in children 6–59 months (ComPAS trial): A cluster-randomized controlled non-inferiority trial in Kenya and South Sudan

by Jeanette Bailey, Charles Opondo, Natasha Lelijveld, Bethany Marron, Pamela Onyo, Eunice N. Musyoki, Susan W. Adongo, Mark Manary, André Briend, Marko Kerac


Malnutrition underlies 3 million child deaths worldwide. Current treatments differentiate severe acute malnutrition (SAM) from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) with different products and programs. This differentiation is complex and costly. The Combined Protocol for Acute Malnutrition Study (ComPAS) assessed the effectiveness of a simplified, unified SAM/MAM protocol for children aged 6–59 months. Eliminating the need for separate products and protocols could improve the impact of programs by treating children more easily and cost-effectively, reaching more children globally.

Methods and findings

A cluster-randomized non-inferiority trial compared a combined protocol against standard care in Kenya and South Sudan. Randomization was stratified by country. Combined protocol clinics treated children using 2 sachets of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) per day for those with mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) p = 0.52; per-protocol analysis, adjusted for country, age, and sex). The amount of ready-to-use food (RUTF or RUSF) required for a child with SAM to reach full recovery was less in the combined protocol (122 versus 193 sachets), and the combined protocol cost US$123 less per child recovered (US$918 versus US$1,041). There were 23 (1.8%) deaths in the combined protocol arm and 21 (1.8%) deaths in the standard protocol arm (adjusted risk difference 95% CI −0.01 to 0.01, p = 0.87). There was no evidence of a difference between the protocols for any of the other secondary outcomes. Study limitations included contextual factors leading to defaulting, a combined multi-country power estimate, and operational constraints.

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Combined treatment for SAM and MAM is non-inferior to standard care. Further research should focus on operational implications, cost-effectiveness, and context (Asia versus Africa; emergency versus food-secure settings). This trial is complete and registered at ISRCTN (ISRCTN30393230).

Trial registration

The trial is registered at ISRCTN, trial number ISRCTN30393230.

Paper source
Plos Journal

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