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New approach to child malaria drugs

Wednesday December 31st, 2014

The treatment of children with malaria can be improved by using the right drug combination, researchers say today.

The disease is carried by mosquitoes and causes about 600,000 deaths a year. In some areas such as Papua New Guinea, two different malaria-carrying species exist, which respond differently to current anti-malarial drugs.

Professor Tim Davis from the University of Western Australia, and colleagues, aimed to discover the best way of combating malaria where multiple mosquito species live.

They compared the use of the drugs artemether-lumefantrine, which is the current recommended therapy for children with malaria in Papua New Guinea, and a combination therapy, artemisinin-naphthoquine. Taking part were 186 children with infection from the Plasmodium falciparum species and 47 children with infection from Plasmodium vivax mosquitoes. The children were randomly assigned to one of the two treatments.

This showed that artemisinin-naphthoquine was more effective than artemether-lumefantrine for treating Plasmodium vivax infections, and equally as good for treating Plasmodium falciparum infections. Children with Plasmodium vivax infections showed a significantly lower rate of infection reappearance within 42 days when given artemisinin-naphthoquine, than when given artemether-lumefantrine.

This novel combination should be given due consideration, the team states in the December issue of PLoS Medicine.

They write: "The efficacy, tolerability, and safety of three daily doses of artemisinin-naphthoquine suggest that this regimen should be considered together with other currently available effective [artemisinin combination therapies] for treatment of uncomplicated malaria in [Papua New Guinea] and similar epidemiologic settings with transmission of multiple Plasmodium species."

Laman, M. et al. Artemisinin-Naphthoquine versus Artemether-Lumefantrine for Uncomplicated Malaria in Papua New Guinean Children: An Open-Label Randomized Trial. PLoS Medicine December 2014; doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001773 [abstract]

Tags: Child Health | Pharmaceuticals | World Health

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