Intramuscular Artesunate for Severe Malaria in African Children: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial.
Kremsner PG., Adegnika AA., Hounkpatin AB., Zinsou JF., Taylor TE., Chimalizeni Y., Liomba A., Kombila M., Bouyou-Akotet MK., Mawili Mboumba DP., Agbenyega T., Ansong D., Sylverken J., Ogutu BR., Otieno GA., Wangwe A., Bojang KA., Okomo U., Sanya-Isijola F., Newton CR., Njuguna P., Kazungu M., Kerb R., Geditz M., Schwab M., Velavan TP., Nguetse C., Köhler C., Issifou S., Bolte S., Engleitner T., Mordmüller B., Krishna S.
BACKGROUND: Current artesunate (ARS) regimens for severe malaria are complex. Once daily intramuscular (i.m.) injection for 3 d would be simpler and more appropriate for remote health facilities than the current WHO-recommended regimen of five intravenous (i.v.) or i.m. injections over 4 d. We compared both a three-dose i.m. and a three-dose i.v. parenteral ARS regimen with the standard five-dose regimen using a non-inferiority design (with non-inferiority margins of 10%). METHODS AND FINDINGS: This randomized controlled trial included children (0.5-10 y) with severe malaria at seven sites in five African countries to assess whether the efficacy of simplified three-dose regimens is non-inferior to a five-dose regimen. We randomly allocated 1,047 children to receive a total dose of 12 mg/kg ARS as either a control regimen of five i.m. injections of 2.4 mg/kg (at 0, 12, 24, 48, and 72 h) (n = 348) or three injections of 4 mg/kg (at 0, 24, and 48 h) either i.m. (n = 348) or i.v. (n = 351), both of which were the intervention arms. The primary endpoint was the proportion of children with ≥ 99% reduction in parasitemia at 24 h from admission values, measured by microscopists who were blinded to the group allocations. Primary analysis was performed on the per-protocol population, which was 96% of the intention-to-treat population. Secondary analyses included an analysis of host and parasite genotypes as risks for prolongation of parasite clearance kinetics, measured every 6 h, and a Kaplan-Meier analysis to compare parasite clearance kinetics between treatment groups. A post hoc analysis was performed for delayed anemia, defined as hemoglobin ≤ 7 g/dl 7 d or more after admission. The per-protocol population was 1,002 children (five-dose i.m.: n = 331; three-dose i.m.: n = 338; three-dose i.v.: n = 333); 139 participants were lost to follow-up. In the three-dose i.m. arm, 265/338 (78%) children had a ≥ 99% reduction in parasitemia at 24 h compared to 263/331 (79%) receiving the five-dose i.m. regimen, showing non-inferiority of the simplified three-dose regimen to the conventional five-dose regimen (95% CI -7, 5; p = 0.02). In the three-dose i.v. arm, 246/333 (74%) children had ≥ 99% reduction in parasitemia at 24 h; hence, non-inferiority of this regimen to the five-dose control regimen was not shown (95% CI -12, 1; p = 0.24). Delayed parasite clearance was associated with the N86YPfmdr1 genotype. In a post hoc analysis, 192/885 (22%) children developed delayed anemia, an adverse event associated with increased leukocyte counts. There was no observed difference in delayed anemia between treatment arms. A potential limitation of the study is its open-label design, although the primary outcome measures were assessed in a blinded manner. CONCLUSIONS: A simplified three-dose i.m. regimen for severe malaria in African children is non-inferior to the more complex WHO-recommended regimen. Parenteral ARS is associated with a risk of delayed anemia in African children. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR201102000277177.