Malaria control largely depends on availability of highly efficacious drugs, however, over the years, has been threatened by emergence of drug resistance. It is, therefore, important to monitor the impact of recurrent anti-malarial treatment on the long-term efficacy of anti-malarial regimens, especially in sub-Saharan African countries with high malaria transmission. Evaluation of parasite clearance following treatment of severe malaria with intravenous artesunate among patients in Eastern Uganda, was performed, as a contribution to monitoring anti-malarial effectiveness.
Parasite clearance data obtained from a clinical trial whose objective was to evaluate the 42-day parasitological treatment outcomes and safety following treatment of severe malaria with intravenous artesunate plus artemisinin-based combination therapy among patients attending Tororo District Hospital in Eastern Uganda, were analysed. Serial blood smears were performed at 0, 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 24 h, followed by 6-hourly blood smears post start of treatment until 6 h post the first negative blood smear when parasite clearance was achieved. Study endpoints were; parasite clearance half-life (the time required for parasitaemia to decrease by 50% based on the linear portion of the parasite clearance slope) and parasite clearance time (time required for complete clearance of initial parasitaemia).
One hundred and fifty participants with severe malaria were enrolled. All participants were treated with intravenous artesunate. All study participants tolerated artesunate well with rapid recovery from symptoms and ability to take oral mediation within 24 h. No immediate adverse events were recorded. The median (IQR) number of days to complete parasite clearance was of 2 (1-2). The median (IQR) time to clear 50% and 99% parasites was 4.8 (3.61-7.10) and 17.55 (14.66-20.66) h, respectively. The median estimated clearance rate constant per hour was 0.32. The median (IQR) slope half-life was 2.15 (1.64, 2.61) h.
Parasite clearance following treatment with intravenous artesunate was rapid and adequate. This finding provides supportive evidence that resistance to artemisinins is unlikely to have emerged in this study area. Continuous monitoring of artemisinin effectiveness for malaria treatment should be established in high malaria transmission areas in sub-Saharan Africa where spread of resistance would be disastrous. Trial registration The study was registered with the Pan African Clinical Trial Registry (PACTR201110000321348). Registered 7th October 2011, http://www.pactr.org/ ).