Artesunate Versus Quinine in the Treatment of Severe Falciparum Malaria in African Children (AQUAMAT): An Open-Label, Randomised Trial

Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
The Lancet (Impact Factor: 45.22). 11/2010; 376(9753):1647-57. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61924-1
Source: PubMed


Severe malaria is a major cause of childhood death and often the main reason for paediatric hospital admission in sub-Saharan Africa. Quinine is still the established treatment of choice, although evidence from Asia suggests that artesunate is associated with a lower mortality. We compared parenteral treatment with either artesunate or quinine in African children with severe malaria.
This open-label, randomised trial was undertaken in 11 centres in nine African countries. Children (<15 years) with severe falciparum malaria were randomly assigned to parenteral artesunate or parenteral quinine. Randomisation was in blocks of 20, with study numbers corresponding to treatment allocations kept inside opaque sealed paper envelopes. The trial was open label at each site, and none of the investigators or trialists, apart from for the trial statistician, had access to the summaries of treatment allocations. The primary outcome measure was in-hospital mortality, analysed by intention to treat. This trial is registered, number ISRCTN50258054.
5425 children were enrolled; 2712 were assigned to artesunate and 2713 to quinine. All patients were analysed for the primary outcome. 230 (8·5%) patients assigned to artesunate treatment died compared with 297 (10·9%) assigned to quinine treatment (odds ratio [OR] stratified for study site 0·75, 95% CI 0·63-0·90; relative reduction 22·5%, 95% CI 8·1-36·9; p=0·0022). Incidence of neurological sequelae did not differ significantly between groups, but the development of coma (65/1832 [3·5%] with artesunate vs 91/1768 [5·1%] with quinine; OR 0·69 95% CI 0·49-0·95; p=0·0231), convulsions (224/2712 [8·3%] vs 273/2713 [10·1%]; OR 0·80, 0·66-0·97; p=0·0199), and deterioration of the coma score (166/2712 [6·1%] vs 208/2713 [7·7%]; OR 0·78, 0·64-0·97; p=0·0245) were all significantly less frequent in artesunate recipients than in quinine recipients. Post-treatment hypoglycaemia was also less frequent in patients assigned to artesunate than in those assigned to quinine (48/2712 [1·8%] vs 75/2713 [2·8%]; OR 0·63, 0·43-0·91; p=0·0134). Artesunate was well tolerated, with no serious drug-related adverse effects.
Artesunate substantially reduces mortality in African children with severe malaria. These data, together with a meta-analysis of all trials comparing artesunate and quinine, strongly suggest that parenteral artesunate should replace quinine as the treatment of choice for severe falciparum malaria worldwide.
The Wellcome Trust.

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    • "The two major severe malaria syndromes are cerebral malaria (CM), which presents as coma and/or seizures, and severe malarial anaemia (SMA). Case fatality rates for CM and SMA are 18% and 10%, respectively, despite optimal anti-malarial treatment [3]. An improved understanding of pathogenesis is required to develop adjunctive therapies, as well as prognostic tools to guide triage and appropriate allocation of limited health care resources. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Severe and fatal malaria are associated with dysregulated host inflammatory responses to infection. Chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1) is a secreted glycoprotein implicated in regulating immune responses. Expression and function of CHI3L1 in malaria infection were investigated. Methods Plasma levels of CHI3L1 were quantified in a case–control study of Ugandan children presenting with Plasmodium falciparum malaria. CHI3L1 levels were compared in children with uncomplicated malaria (UM; n = 53), severe malarial anaemia (SMA; n = 59) and cerebral malaria (CM; n = 44) using the Kruskall Wallis-test, and evaluated for utility in predicting fatal (n = 23) versus non-fatal (n = 80) outcomes in severe disease using the Mann Whitney U test, receiver operating characteristic curves, and combinatorial analysis. Co-culture of P. falciparum with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and the Plasmodium berghei ANKA experimental model of cerebral malaria were used to examine the role of CHI3L1 in severe malaria. Results In children presenting with falciparum malaria, CHI3L1 levels were increased in SMA and CM versus UM (p < 0.001). Among severe malaria cases, CHI3L1 levels at presentation predicted subsequent death (area under receiver operating characteristic curve 0.84 [95% CI 0.76-0.92]) and in combination with other host biomarkers, predicted mortality with high sensitivity (100% [85.7-100]) and specificity (81.3% [71.3-88.3]). Plasmodium falciparum stimulated CHI3L1 production by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro. CHI3L1 was increased in plasma and brain tissue in experimental cerebral malaria, but targeted Chi3l1 deletion did not alter cytokine production or survival in this model. Conclusions These data suggest that plasma CHI3L1 measured at presentation correlates with malaria severity and predicts outcome in paediatric SMA and CM, but do not support a causal role for CHI3L1 in cerebral malaria pathobiology in the model tested.
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    • "There is increasing evidence supporting efficacy, safety and tolerability of ACT, which outweigh the advantages of quinine in treating malaria [15,16]. Despite its reactogenicity profile and several reports of resistant strains of P falciparum[17,18], quinine remains the only recommended drug for treating both uncomplicated and complicated P falciparum malaria during first trimester of pregnancy [5,11]. "
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