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1.  The Activities of Current Antimalarial Drugs on the Life Cycle Stages of Plasmodium: A Comparative Study with Human and Rodent Parasites 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001169.
Michael Delves and colleagues compare the activity of 50 current and experimental antimalarials against liver, sexual blood, and mosquito stages of selected human and nonhuman parasite species, including Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium berghei, and Plasmodium yoelii.
Background
Malaria remains a disease of devastating global impact, killing more than 800,000 people every year—the vast majority being children under the age of 5. While effective therapies are available, if malaria is to be eradicated a broader range of small molecule therapeutics that are able to target the liver and the transmissible sexual stages are required. These new medicines are needed both to meet the challenge of malaria eradication and to circumvent resistance.
Methods and Findings
Little is known about the wider stage-specific activities of current antimalarials that were primarily designed to alleviate symptoms of malaria in the blood stage. To overcome this critical gap, we developed assays to measure activity of antimalarials against all life stages of malaria parasites, using a diverse set of human and nonhuman parasite species, including male gamete production (exflagellation) in Plasmodium falciparum, ookinete development in P. berghei, oocyst development in P. berghei and P. falciparum, and the liver stage of P. yoelii. We then compared 50 current and experimental antimalarials in these assays. We show that endoperoxides such as OZ439, a stable synthetic molecule currently in clinical phase IIa trials, are strong inhibitors of gametocyte maturation/gamete formation and impact sporogony; lumefantrine impairs development in the vector; and NPC-1161B, a new 8-aminoquinoline, inhibits sporogony.
Conclusions
These data enable objective comparisons of the strengths and weaknesses of each chemical class at targeting each stage of the lifecycle. Noting that the activities of many compounds lie within achievable blood concentrations, these results offer an invaluable guide to decisions regarding which drugs to combine in the next-generation of antimalarial drugs. This study might reveal the potential of life-cycle–wide analyses of drugs for other pathogens with complex life cycles.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. According to latest global estimates, about 250 million people are infected with malaria every year with roughly 800,000 deaths—most occurring among young children living in Africa. Malaria also causes severe morbidity in children, such as anemia, low birth weight, and neurological problems, which compromise the health and development of millions of children living in malaria endemic areas. In addition to strategies that scale up and roll out the prevention of malaria, such as country-wide programs to provide insecticide-treating bednets, in the goal to eradicate malaria, the global health community has refocused efforts on the treatment of malaria, including finding new compounds that target different stages of the parasite life cycle as it passes from vector to host and back.
The interruption of malaria transmission worldwide is one of the greatest challenges for the global health community. In January 2011, this journal published a series on The Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA), which described a set of research and development priorities, identified key knowledge gaps and the necessary tools needed, and introduced a draft research and development agenda for the worldwide eradication of malaria.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most currently available antimalarial drugs primarily target the disease-causing parasites' stages in the human blood system. But to eradicate malaria, new drugs that block transmission of the parasite between the human host and the mosquito vector, and eliminate the various stages of the parasite during its cycle in the human body, are needed. In this laboratory study, the researchers compared the profiles of all available and experimental antimalarials and analyzed each drug for activity against each specific stage in the malaria parasite's life cycle to provide a reference set of methods and data, that might serve as a benchmark to help guide the malaria research community in assessing the potential of newly discovered antimalarials. Furthermore, this analysis could provide insights into which chemical drug classes might provide transmission-blocking capabilities—an essential component of malaria eradication.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used novel laboratory techniques under standardized conditions to develop a series of novel assays to analyze the activities of 50 antimalarial compounds (current drugs and those under development) against three Plasmodium species encompassing every major cellular strategy of the malarial life cycle including drug resistant parasite strains. In their comparative analysis, the researchers undertook a chemical profiling approach to identify the drugs that block transmission from the host to the mosquito vector and additionally suppress transmission from the mosquito to the human host.
The researchers highlighted some encouraging results; for example, the potencies of some antimalarials against the asexual blood stage of cultivated P. falciparum and P. vivax isolates show a very good correlation, suggesting that most of the pathways inhibited by antimalarials in P. falciparum may also be valid targets in P. vivax. The researchers also have shown that approved drugs, such as pyronaridine and atovaquone, can target liver and sexual stages in addition to asexual blood stages. Furthermore, the researchers found promising results for new compounds currently in clinical trials, such as the endoperoxide OZ439, a stable synthetic molecule currently being studied in a phase IIa clinical trial, which seemed to be a strong inhibitor of gametocyte maturation and gamete formation. The new 8-aminoquinoline, NPC-1161B, also inhibited sporogony.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this analysis provide a valuable guide to help researchers decide which drugs and compounds show most promise as potential future antimalarial drugs for blocking the transmission of malaria. This study could also help researchers make decisions about which molecules could be best combined to provide the next generation of drugs that will succeed artemisinin compound therapy and support the eradication of malaria. Furthermore, this comprehensive approach to drug discovery could be applied to test drugs against other pathogens with complex life cycles.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001169.
The malERA a research agenda for malaria eradication sponsored collection, published by PLoS in January 2011, comprises 12 Review articles that discuss agendas in malaria research and development
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001169
PMCID: PMC3283556  PMID: 22363211
2.  Erythrocyte G Protein as a Novel Target for Malarial Chemotherapy 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e528.
Background
Malaria remains a serious health problem because resistance develops to all currently used drugs when their parasite targets mutate. Novel antimalarial drug targets are urgently needed to reduce global morbidity and mortality. Our prior results suggested that inhibiting erythrocyte Gs signaling blocked invasion by the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the erythrocyte guanine nucleotide regulatory protein Gs as a novel antimalarial target. Erythrocyte “ghosts” loaded with a Gs peptide designed to block Gs interaction with its receptors, were blocked in β-adrenergic agonist-induced signaling. This finding directly demonstrates that erythrocyte Gs is functional and that propranolol, an antagonist of G protein–coupled β-adrenergic receptors, dampens Gs activity in erythrocytes. We subsequently used the ghost system to directly link inhibition of host Gs to parasite entry. In addition, we discovered that ghosts loaded with the peptide were inhibited in intracellular parasite maturation. Propranolol also inhibited blood-stage parasite growth, as did other β2-antagonists. β-blocker growth inhibition appeared to be due to delay in the terminal schizont stage. When used in combination with existing antimalarials in cell culture, propranolol reduced the 50% and 90% inhibitory concentrations for existing drugs against P. falciparum by 5- to 10-fold and was also effective in reducing drug dose in animal models of infection.
Conclusions
Together these data establish that, in addition to invasion, erythrocyte G protein signaling is needed for intracellular parasite proliferation and thus may present a novel antimalarial target. The results provide proof of the concept that erythrocyte Gs antagonism offers a novel strategy to fight infection and that it has potential to be used to develop combination therapies with existing antimalarials.
Erythrocyte G protein signaling is needed for intracellular malarial parasite proliferation and thus may present a novel antimalarial target.
Editors' Summary
Background.
New drugs for treatment of malaria are urgently needed, because the malaria parasite has evolved resistance against virtually all types of commonly used drugs. When a person is bitten by a malaria-infected mosquito, the parasite first infects the person's liver cells before going on to infect red blood cells, where the parasites multiply and develop into a parasite stage called a schizont. The red blood cells then burst and release more schizonts into the bloodstream; it is this “blood stage” of infection in humans that causes the symptoms of disease. Therefore efforts to develop new drugs against malaria often focus on this “blood stage” of infection. One strategy for developing new drugs is termed the “host-targeted” approach. This means that rather than trying to block processes occurring within the parasite itself, a drug can be developed which blocks processes within the person's red blood cells, and which would otherwise be needed for the parasite to complete its life cycle. It will be difficult for malaria parasites to evolve resistance to such a drug, because changes in a person's red blood cells occur much more slowly than in the parasites themselves.
Why Was This Study Done?
This research group has been studying a set of molecular processes within human red blood cells which seemed to be required for entry of malaria parasites into the cells. They wanted to get a better understanding of those processes and, specifically, to find out whether it would be possible to use particular molecules to block those processes, and by doing so to prevent malaria parasites from entering and multiplying within red blood cells. In particular, when the malaria parasites invade the red blood cell, they form membranes around the red blood cell, containing lipids and proteins “hijacked” from the red blood cell membrane. These researchers already knew that two particular proteins were hijacked in this way; the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR) and heterotrimeric G protein (Gs). These two proteins act together to pass messages across the surface of the membrane to inside the cell. Small molecules could be used to block signaling through β2-AR and Gs, and therefore potentially to provide a new way of preventing malaria parasites from entering red blood cells and multiplying within them.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Firstly, the researchers made red blood cell “ghosts” in which to study these molecular processes. This meant that they took fresh red blood cells from healthy human volunteers, burst them to remove half the contents and loaded them with markers and other cargoes before resealing the membranes of the cell. These resealed markers and cargoes allowed them to see what was happening inside the cells. Malaria parasites were able to invade these ghosts normally and multiply within them. When the researchers introduced a specific peptide (a molecule consisting of a short series of amino acids), they found that it blocked Gs signaling within the ghosts. This peptide also prevented malaria parasites from developing inside the ghosts. Therefore, they concluded that Gs signaling inside the red blood cell was important for the parasite life cycle. The researchers then examined a drug called propranolol which is already known to act on Gs signaling and which is commonly prescribed for high blood pressure. This drug also blocked development of malaria parasites inside the ghosts when used at a particular concentration. Finally, the researchers studied the effect of giving propranolol, along with other antimalarial drugs, to human malaria parasites in a culture dish and to mice injected with a malaria parasite that infects rodents. In these experiments, adding propranolol reduced the amount of other “parasite-targeted” drugs that were needed to effectively treat malarial infection in tissue culture and in mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Showing that the Gs signaling pathway is important for the malaria parasite's life cycle opens up new possibilities for drug development. Specifically, propranolol (which is already approved for treatment of high blood pressure and other conditions) might itself provide a new candidate therapy, either alone or in combination with existing drugs. These combinations would first, however, need to be tested in human clinical trials, perhaps by seeing whether they have antimalarial activity in people who have not responded to existing antimalarial drugs. Since it acts to lower blood pressure, which can already be low in some people with malaria, there are some concerns that propranolol might not be a suitable drug candidate for use, especially with existing antimalarial drugs that also reduce blood pressure. However, other molecules which block Gs signaling could be tested for activity against malaria should propranolol prove not to be an ideal drug candidate.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030528.
The World Health Organization publishes a minisite containing links to information about all aspects of malaria worldwide, including treatment, prevention, and current programs for malaria control
Medicines for Malaria Venture is a collaboration between public and private organizations (including the pharmaceutical industry) that aims to fund and manage the development of new drugs for treatment and prevention of malaria
Wikipedia entries for drug discovery and drug development (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030528
PMCID: PMC1716186  PMID: 17194200
3.  Artemisinin-Naphthoquine versus Artemether-Lumefantrine for Uncomplicated Malaria in Papua New Guinean Children: An Open-Label Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(12):e1001773.
In a randomized controlled trial Tim Davis and colleagues investigate Artemisinin-naphthoquine versus artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) with broad efficacy are needed where multiple Plasmodium species are transmitted, especially in children, who bear the brunt of infection in endemic areas. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), artemether-lumefantrine is the first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria, but it has limited efficacy against P. vivax. Artemisinin-naphthoquine should have greater activity in vivax malaria because the elimination of naphthoquine is slower than that of lumefantrine. In this study, the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of these ACTs were assessed in PNG children aged 0.5–5 y.
Methods and Findings
An open-label, randomized, parallel-group trial of artemether-lumefantrine (six doses over 3 d) and artemisinin-naphthoquine (three daily doses) was conducted between 28 March 2011 and 22 April 2013. Parasitologic outcomes were assessed without knowledge of treatment allocation. Primary endpoints were the 42-d P. falciparum PCR-corrected adequate clinical and parasitologic response (ACPR) and the P. vivax PCR-uncorrected 42-d ACPR. Non-inferiority and superiority designs were used for falciparum and vivax malaria, respectively. Because the artemisinin-naphthoquine regimen involved three doses rather than the manufacturer-specified single dose, the first 188 children underwent detailed safety monitoring. Of 2,542 febrile children screened, 267 were randomized, and 186 with falciparum and 47 with vivax malaria completed the 42-d follow-up. Both ACTs were safe and well tolerated. P. falciparum ACPRs were 97.8% and 100.0% in artemether-lumefantrine and artemisinin-naphthoquine-treated patients, respectively (difference 2.2% [95% CI −3.0% to 8.4%] versus −5.0% non-inferiority margin, p = 0.24), and P. vivax ACPRs were 30.0% and 100.0%, respectively (difference 70.0% [95% CI 40.9%–87.2%], p<0.001). Limitations included the exclusion of 11% of randomized patients with sub-threshold parasitemias on confirmatory microscopy and direct observation of only morning artemether-lumefantrine dosing.
Conclusions
Artemisinin-naphthoquine is non-inferior to artemether-lumefantrine in PNG children with falciparum malaria but has greater efficacy against vivax malaria, findings with implications in similar geo-epidemiologic settings within and beyond Oceania.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000913077
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills more than 600,000 people (mainly young children in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Plasmodium falciparum causes most of these deaths, but P. vivax is the most common and most widely distributed cause of malaria outside sub-Saharan Africa. Infection with malaria parasites causes recurring flu-like symptoms and must be treated promptly with antimalarial drugs to prevent the development of anemia and potentially fatal damage to the brain and other organs. In the past, malaria was treated with “monotherapies” such as chloroquine, but the parasites quickly developed resistance to many of these inexpensive drugs. The World Health Organization now recommends artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) for first-line treatment of malaria in all regions where there is drug-resistant malaria. In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (fast-acting antimalarial drugs that are rapidly cleared from the body) are used in combination with a slower acting, more slowly eliminated partner drug to prevent reemergence of the original infection and to reduce the chances of the malaria parasites becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because falciparum and vivax malaria respond differently to antimalarial drugs, wherever there is transmission of both types of malaria but limited facilities for species-specific malaria diagnosis—as in Papua New Guinea—compromises have to be made about which ACT should be used for the treatment of malaria. Thus, Papua New Guinea's national guidelines recommend artemether-lumefantrine, which is effective against the more deadly P. falciparum, for first-line treatment of uncomplicated (mild) malaria even though this ACT is ineffective against the more common P. vivax. In this open-label randomized trial (a study in which participants are randomly assigned to receive different drugs but know which drug they are being given), the researchers ask whether an alternative ACT might be preferable for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in young children in Papua New Guinea by comparing outcomes after treatment with artemether-lumefantrine versus artemisinin-naphthoquine (an ACT that should be more effective against vivax malaria than artemether-lumefantrine because naphthoquine stays in the body longer than lumefantrine). Specifically, the researchers test the non-inferiority of artemisinin-naphthoquine compared to artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of falciparum malaria (whether artemisinin-naphthoquine is not worse than artemether-lumefantrine) and the superiority of artemisinin-naphthoquine compared to artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of vivax malaria (whether artemisinin-naphthoquine is better than artemether-lumefantrine).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assigned nearly 250 children (aged 0.5 to 5 years) with falciparum malaria, vivax malaria, or both types of malaria to receive six doses of artemether-lumefantrine over three days or three daily doses of artemisinin-naphthoquine. They then followed the children to see how many children in each treatment group and with each type of malaria were free of malaria 42 days after treatment (an “adequate clinical and parasitological response”). Among the patients originally infected with P. falciparum, 97.8% of those treated with artemether-lumefantrine and 100% of those treated with artemisinin-naphthoquine were clear of their original P. falciparum infection (though some had acquired a new P. falciparum infection) 42 days after treatment. By contrast, among the patients infected with P. vivax, 30% of those treated with artemether-lumefantrine and 100% of those treated with artemisinin-naphthoquine were clear of P. vivax infection 42 days after treatment. Both ACTs were safe and well tolerated.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that artemisinin-naphthoquine was non-inferior to artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria among young children in Papua New Guinea and had greater efficacy than artemether-lumefantrine against vivax malaria. The accuracy of these findings may be limited by several aspects of the study design. For example, not all the artemether-lumefantrine doses were directly observed, so some children may not have received the full treatment course. Moreover, because all the study participants lived in coastal communities in Papua New Guinea where malaria is highly endemic, treatment responses among children living in areas with lower levels of malaria transmission might be different. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that artemisinin-naphthoquine should be considered alongside other ACTs for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in regions where there is transmission of multiple Plasmodium species and that artemisinin-naphthoquine may be better than artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in young children in regions where P. vivax predominates.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001773.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the World Malaria Report 2013 provides details on the current global malaria situation, including information on malaria in Papua New Guinea; the World Health Organization's Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria is available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria, including information about malaria in Papua New Guinea, malaria in children, and ACTs
The Malaria Vaccine Initiative has a fact sheet on Plasmodium vivax malaria
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
More information about this trial is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001773
PMCID: PMC4280121  PMID: 25549086
4.  Modelling the Impact of Artemisinin Combination Therapy and Long-Acting Treatments on Malaria Transmission Intensity 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(11):e226.
Background
Artemisinin derivatives used in recently introduced combination therapies (ACTs) for Plasmodium falciparum malaria significantly lower patient infectiousness and have the potential to reduce population-level transmission of the parasite. With the increased interest in malaria elimination, understanding the impact on transmission of ACT and other antimalarial drugs with different pharmacodynamics becomes a key issue. This study estimates the reduction in transmission that may be achieved by introducing different types of treatment for symptomatic P. falciparum malaria in endemic areas.
Methods and Findings
We developed a mathematical model to predict the potential impact on transmission outcomes of introducing ACT as first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria in six areas of varying transmission intensity in Tanzania. We also estimated the impact that could be achieved by antimalarials with different efficacy, prophylactic time, and gametocytocidal effects. Rates of treatment, asymptomatic infection, and symptomatic infection in the six study areas were estimated using the model together with data from a cross-sectional survey of 5,667 individuals conducted prior to policy change from sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to ACT. The effects of ACT and other drug types on gametocytaemia and infectiousness to mosquitoes were independently estimated from clinical trial data. Predicted percentage reductions in prevalence of infection and incidence of clinical episodes achieved by ACT were highest in the areas with low initial transmission. A 53% reduction in prevalence of infection was seen if 100% of current treatment was switched to ACT in the area where baseline slide-prevalence of parasitaemia was lowest (3.7%), compared to an 11% reduction in the highest-transmission setting (baseline slide prevalence = 57.1%). Estimated percentage reductions in incidence of clinical episodes were similar. The absolute size of the public health impact, however, was greater in the highest-transmission area, with 54 clinical episodes per 100 persons per year averted compared to five per 100 persons per year in the lowest-transmission area. High coverage was important. Reducing presumptive treatment through improved diagnosis substantially reduced the number of treatment courses required per clinical episode averted in the lower-transmission settings although there was some loss of overall impact on transmission. An efficacious antimalarial regimen with no specific gametocytocidal properties but a long prophylactic time was estimated to be more effective at reducing transmission than a short-acting ACT in the highest-transmission setting.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that ACTs have the potential for transmission reductions approaching those achieved by insecticide-treated nets in lower-transmission settings. ACT partner drugs and nonartemisinin regimens with longer prophylactic times could result in a larger impact in higher-transmission settings, although their long term benefit must be evaluated in relation to the risk of development of parasite resistance.
Lucy Okell and colleagues predict the impact on transmission outcomes of ACT as first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria in six areas of varying transmission intensity in Tanzania.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Plasmodium falciparum, a mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria, kills nearly one million people every year. When an infected mosquito bites a person, it injects a life stage of the parasite called sporozoites, which invade human liver cells where they initially develop. The liver cells then release merozoites (another life stage of the parasite). These invade red blood cells where they multiply before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells, which can cause fever and damage vital organs. Some merozoites develop into gametocytes, which infect mosquitos when they take a blood meal. In the mosquito, the gametocytes give rise to sporozoites, thus completing the parasite's life cycle. Because malaria parasites are now resistant to many antimalarial drugs, the preferred first-line treatment for P. falciparum malaria in most countries is artemisinin combination therapy (ACT). Artemisinin derivatives are fast-acting antimalarial agents that, unlike previous first-line treatments, reduce the number of gametocytes in patients' blood, making them less infectious to mosquitos, and therefore have more potential to reduce malaria transmission. These compounds are used in combination with another antimalarial drug to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because malaria poses such a large global public-health burden, there is considerable national and international interest in eliminating it or at least minimizing its transmission. Malaria control agencies need to know how to choose between available types of ACT as well as other antimalarials so as to not only cure malaria illness but also prevent transmission as much as possible. The financial resources available to control malaria are limited, so for planning integrated transmission reduction programs it is important for policy makers to know what contribution their treatment policy could make in addition to other control strategies (for example, the provision of insecticide-treated bed nets to reduce mosquito bites) to reducing transmission. Furthermore, in areas with high levels of malaria, it is uncertain to what extent treatment can reduce transmission since many infected people are immune and do not suffer symptoms or seek health care, but continue to transmit to others. In this study, the researchers develop a mathematical model to predict the impact on malaria transmission of the introduction of ACT and alternative first-line treatments for malaria in six regions of Tanzania with different levels of malaria transmission.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a “deterministic compartmental” model of malaria transmission in human and mosquito populations and included numerous variables likely to affect malaria transmission (variables were based on data collected in Tanzania just before the introduction of ACT). They then used the model to estimate the impact on malaria transmission of introducing ACT or other antimalarial drugs with different properties. The model predicted that the percentage reduction in the prevalence of infection (the fraction of the population with malaria) and the incidence of infection (the number of new cases in the population per year) associated with a 100% switch to ACT would be greater in areas with low initial transmission rates than in areas with high transmission rates. For example, in the area with the lowest initial transmission rates, the model predicted that the prevalence of infection would drop by 53%, but in the area with the highest initial transmission rate, the drop would be only 11%. However, because more people get malaria in high-transmission areas, the total number of malaria illness episodes prevented would be ten times higher in the area with highest transmission than in the area with lowest transmission. The model also predicted that, in areas with high transmission, long-acting treatments which protect patients from reinfection would reduce transmission more effectively than some common currently used ACT regimens which are gametocyte-killing but short-acting. Treatments which were both long-acting and gametocyte-killing were predicted to have the biggest impact across all settings.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical models, the accuracy of the predictions made by this model depend on the many assumptions incorporated into the model. In addition, because data from Tanzania were fed into the model, its predictions are to some extent specific to the area. Nevertheless the Tanzanian setting is typical of sub-Saharan malaria-affected areas, and the authors show that varying their assumptions and the data fed into the model within realistic ranges in most cases does not substantially change their overall conclusions. The findings in this study suggest that in low-transmission areas, provided ACT is widely used, ACT may reduce malaria transmission as effectively as the widespread use of insecticide-treated bed nets. The findings also suggest that the use of longer-acting regimens with or without artemisinin components might be a good way to reduce transmission in high-transmission areas, provided the development of parasite resistance can be avoided. More generally, these findings suggest that public-health officials need to take the properties of antimalarial drugs into account together with the levels of transmission in the area when designing policies in order to achieve the highest impact on malaria transmission.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050226.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Maciej Boni and colleagues
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to the global control of malaria, on artemisinin-based combination therapies, and on malaria in Tanzania
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050226
PMCID: PMC2586356  PMID: 19067479
5.  Protective Efficacy and Safety of Three Antimalarial Regimens for the Prevention of Malaria in Young Ugandan Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001689.
Grant Dorsey and colleagues investigate the efficacy of three antimalarial drugs for preventing malaria in children living in Uganda, an area of high transmission intensity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Chemoprevention offers a promising strategy for prevention of malaria in African children. However, the optimal chemoprevention drug and dosing strategy is unclear in areas of year-round transmission and resistance to many antimalarial drugs. To compare three available regimens, we conducted an open-label randomized controlled trial of chemoprevention in Ugandan children.
Methods and Findings
This study was conducted between June 28, 2010, and September 25, 2013. 400 infants were enrolled and 393 randomized at 6 mo of age to no chemoprevention, monthly sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), daily trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TS), or monthly dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP). Study drugs were administered at home without supervision. Piperaquine (PQ) levels were used as a measure of compliance in the DP arm. Participants were given insecticide-treated bednets, and caregivers were encouraged to bring their child to a study clinic whenever they were ill. Chemoprevention was stopped at 24 mo of age, and participants followed-up an additional year. Primary outcome was the incidence of malaria during the intervention period. During the intervention, the incidence of malaria in the no chemoprevention arm was 6.95 episodes per person-year at risk. Protective efficacy was 58% (95% CI, 45%–67%, p<0.001) for DP, 28% (95% CI, 7%–44%, p = 0.01) for TS, and 7% for SP (95% CI, −19% to 28%, p = 0.57). PQ levels were below the detection limit 52% of the time when malaria was diagnosed in the DP arm, suggesting non-adherence. There were no differences between the study arms in the incidence of serious adverse events during the intervention and the incidence of malaria during the 1-y period after the intervention was stopped.
Conclusions
For preventing malaria in children living in an area of high transmission intensity, monthly DP was the most efficacious and safe, although adherence may pose a problem. Monthly SP and daily TS may not be appropriate in areas with high transmission intensity and frequent resistance to antifolates.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00948896
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a parasitic disease that kills more than 600,000 people (mainly young children living in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Malaria parasites, which are transmitted to people through the bites of night-flying mosquitoes, cause a characteristic fever that needs to be treated promptly with antimalarial drugs to prevent anemia and organ damage. Prompt treatment also helps to reduce malaria transmission and is a component of the Global Malaria Action Plan, which aims to control and eventually eliminate malaria. Other components of this plan include the provision of insecticide-treated bednets for people to sleep under to avoid mosquito bites and indoor residual spraying with insecticides. Widespread deployment of these preventative tools and the increased availability of effective antimalarial drugs have greatly reduced malaria-related deaths worldwide over the past decade, but new strategies are still urgently needed to reduce the burden of malaria among those most at risk—young children living in Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
One promising strategy for the prevention of malaria in African children is the use of antimalarial drugs to prevent rather than treat malaria. In trials, giving infants sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) alongside routine vaccinations, for example, reduced the incidence of malaria (the number of new cases in the population in a year) by about 30% during the first year of life (a protective efficacy of 30%). However, the optimal chemoprevention drug and dosing strategy for children living in African regions where there is year-round transmission of malaria and where resistance to antimalarial drugs is common remains unclear. Here, the researchers undertake an open-label randomized controlled trial (RCT) of chemoprevention in infants in the Tororo District of eastern Uganda, an area with intense year-round malaria transmission. RCTs compare outcomes in groups of people chosen to receive different interventions through the play of chance; in open-label RCTs, both the researchers and the participants know which treatment is being administered.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assigned 393 six-month-old infants to receive no chemoprevention, monthly SP, daily trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TS), or monthly dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) until they were 24 months old. SP and TS block the production of folic acid, which malaria needs for survival, whereas DP is a newer artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). All the drugs were given at home without supervision, and caregivers were asked to bring their children to a study clinic whenever they were ill. During the intervention, the incidence of malaria was 6.95 episodes per person-year at risk in the no chemoprevention arm but only three episodes per person-year at risk in the DP arm. That is, the protective efficacy of DP was 58%. By contrast, the protective efficacies of TS and SP were 28% and 7%, respectively. However, for SP the protective efficacy was not statistically different compared to the no chemoprevention arm. Notably, piperaquine levels on the day that malaria was diagnosed were below the detection limit in half of the malaria episodes in the DP arm, which suggests that a complete dose of DP had not been given to the infant in the previous month, despite caregivers reporting that they had administered virtually all the assigned doses. Finally, the incidence of serious adverse events was similar in all the study arms during the intervention, as was the incidence of malaria during the year after the intervention, which suggests that the chemoprevention strategies did not affect the development of naturally acquired immunity.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, for children living in an area of intense malaria transmission, monthly DP was the most efficacious strategy for malaria chemoprevention but that adherence to the strategy may have been a problem. These findings also suggest that monthly SP and daily TS may not be appropriate chemoprevention strategies in areas of high transmission intensity, particularly those where resistance to antifolate drugs is common. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by drug administration being self-reported and by the number of comparisons included in the trial, which may have increased the risk of false-positive results. Moreover, the results of this trial may not be generalizable to other regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Overall, however, these results suggest that monthly DP is a strategy worth considering in regions in need of improved malaria control measures, with the important caveat that widespread ACT use for chemoprevention could compromise the efficacy of ACT when used for treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001689.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages), including information on malaria chemoprevention; the World Malaria Report 2013 provides details of the current global malaria situation, including information on malaria in Uganda
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria, including information on ways to reduce malaria cases and deaths; it also provides a selection of personal stories about malaria, including a story about malaria in a child in Africa
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on the Global Malaria Action Plan (in English and French); its website includes fact sheets about malaria in Africa and about children and malaria
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
More information about this trial is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001689
PMCID: PMC4122345  PMID: 25093754
6.  Reducing Plasmodium falciparum Malaria Transmission in Africa: A Model-Based Evaluation of Intervention Strategies 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000324.
Background
Over the past decade malaria intervention coverage has been scaled up across Africa. However, it remains unclear what overall reduction in transmission is achievable using currently available tools.
Methods and Findings
We developed an individual-based simulation model for Plasmodium falciparum transmission in an African context incorporating the three major vector species (Anopheles gambiae s.s., An. arabiensis, and An. funestus) with parameters obtained by fitting to parasite prevalence data from 34 transmission settings across Africa. We incorporated the effect of the switch to artemisinin-combination therapy (ACT) and increasing coverage of long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) from the year 2000 onwards. We then explored the impact on transmission of continued roll-out of LLINs, additional rounds of indoor residual spraying (IRS), mass screening and treatment (MSAT), and a future RTS,S/AS01 vaccine in six representative settings with varying transmission intensity (as summarized by the annual entomological inoculation rate, EIR: 1 setting with low, 3 with moderate, and 2 with high EIRs), vector–species combinations, and patterns of seasonality. In all settings we considered a realistic target of 80% coverage of interventions. In the low-transmission setting (EIR∼3 ibppy [infectious bites per person per year]), LLINs have the potential to reduce malaria transmission to low levels (<1% parasite prevalence in all age-groups) provided usage levels are high and sustained. In two of the moderate-transmission settings (EIR∼43 and 81 ibppy), additional rounds of IRS with DDT coupled with MSAT could drive parasite prevalence below a 1% threshold. However, in the third (EIR = 46) with An. arabiensis prevailing, these interventions are insufficient to reach this threshold. In both high-transmission settings (EIR∼586 and 675 ibppy), either unrealistically high coverage levels (>90%) or novel tools and/or substantial social improvements will be required, although considerable reductions in prevalence can be achieved with existing tools and realistic coverage levels.
Conclusions
Interventions using current tools can result in major reductions in P. falciparum malaria transmission and the associated disease burden in Africa. Reduction to the 1% parasite prevalence threshold is possible in low- to moderate-transmission settings when vectors are primarily endophilic (indoor-resting), provided a comprehensive and sustained intervention program is achieved through roll-out of interventions. In high-transmission settings and those in which vectors are mainly exophilic (outdoor-resting), additional new tools that target exophagic (outdoor-biting), exophilic, and partly zoophagic mosquitoes will be required.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Half the world's population is at risk of malaria, and every year nearly one million people—mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa—die from this mosquito-borne parasitic disease. Most malarial deaths are caused by Plasmodium falciparum, which is transmitted to people by mainly night-biting Anopheles mosquitoes. When infected mosquitoes feed on people, they inject sporozoites, a parasitic form that replicates inside human liver cells. After a few days, the liver cells release “merozoites,” which invade red blood cells where they replicate rapidly before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells. This increase in the parasitic burden causes malaria's characteristic fever. Infected red blood cells also release “gametocytes,” which infect mosquitoes when they take a blood meal. In the mosquito, the gametocytes multiply and develop into sporozoites, thus completing the parasite's life cycle. Malaria can be prevented by spraying the insides of houses (where most Anopheles species feed and rest) with insecticides (indoor residual spraying, IRS) and by sleeping under bed nets that have been treated with long-lasting insecticides (long-lasting insecticide nets, LLINs). Mass screening and treatment (MSAT) with effective antimalarial drugs can also reduce malaria transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
Early attempts to eradicate malaria (reduce its global incidence to zero) in the 1950s reduced the incidence of malaria to zero in some countries (malaria elimination) and greatly reduced malarial illnesses and deaths in others (malaria control). However, this eradication program was aborted in the 1970s in part because of emerging drug and insecticide resistance. Recently, the advent of artemisinin-based combination therapies and new insecticides and the prospect of a malaria vaccine have renewed interest in controlling, eliminating, and ultimately eradicating malaria. Consequently, in September 2008, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership launched the Global Malaria Action Plan, which aims to reduce malaria deaths to near zero by 2015. But are the currently available tools for reducing malaria transmission sufficient to control and eliminate malaria in Africa, the continent where most malaria deaths occur? In this study, the researchers use a new mathematical model of P. falciparum transmission to investigate this question.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' P. falciparum transmission model consists of “compartments” through which individuals pass as they become infected with parasites, develop immunity, become infectious to mosquitoes, and so on. The researchers used published data about parasite prevalence (the proportion of the population infected with parasites) and about relevant aspects of mosquito, parasite, and human biology, to estimate the chances of an individual moving between compartments. Finally, they used the model to explore the impact over 25 years of increased coverage of LLINs, IRS, and MSAT, and of a future vaccine on malaria transmission in six representative African settings. In a low-transmission setting, 80% coverage with LLINs reduced the parasite prevalence to below 1% in all age groups. In two moderate-transmission settings, LLIN scale-up alone failed to reach this target but the addition of IRS and MSAT drove the parasite prevalence below 1%. However, this combination of interventions did not control malaria in a moderate-transmission setting in which a mosquito species that bites and rests outside houses contributes to malaria transmission. Finally, in two high-transmission settings, parasite prevalence could be driven below 1% only by setting unrealistic coverage targets for existing interventions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This new mathematical model greatly simplifies the complex dynamics of malaria transmission and includes several assumptions about which there is considerable uncertainty. The findings of this study are not, therefore, firm predictions of the future of malaria control in specific settings. Nevertheless, they suggest that it should be possible to make large reductions in malaria transmission and the associated disease burden in Africa over the next 25 years using currently available tools. Specifically, in regions where transmission is low or moderate and mosquitoes mainly feed indoors, it should be possible to reduce parasite prevalence to less than 1% provided a sustained intervention program is achieved. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that in regions where malaria transmission is high or where mosquitoes rest and bite outside houses, new approaches will be needed to control and eliminate malaria.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000324.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2009 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to the global control of malaria, including the Global Malaria Action Plan and a fact sheet on malaria in Africa
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000324
PMCID: PMC2919425  PMID: 20711482
7.  A Plant-Derived Morphinan as a Novel Lead Compound Active against Malaria Liver Stages  
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e513.
Background
The global spread of multidrug–resistant malaria parasites has led to an urgent need for new chemotherapeutic agents. Drug discovery is primarily directed to the asexual blood stages, and few drugs that are effective against the obligatory liver stages, from which the pathogenic blood infection is initiated, have become available since primaquine was deployed in the 1950s.
Methods and Findings
Using bioassay-guided fractionation based on the parasite's hepatic stage, we have isolated a novel morphinan alkaloid, tazopsine, from a plant traditionally used against malaria in Madagascar. This compound and readily obtained semisynthetic derivatives were tested for inhibitory activity against liver stage development in vitro (P. falciparum and P. yoelii) and in vivo (P. yoelii). Tazopsine fully inhibited the development of P. yoelii (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50] 3.1 μM, therapeutic index [TI] 14) and P. falciparum (IC50 4.2 μM, TI 7) hepatic parasites in cultured primary hepatocytes, with inhibition being most pronounced during the early developmental stages. One derivative, N-cyclopentyl-tazopsine (NCP-tazopsine), with similar inhibitory activity was selected for its lower toxicity (IC50 3.3 μM, TI 46, and IC50 42.4 μM, TI 60, on P. yoelii and P. falciparum hepatic stages in vitro, respectively). Oral administration of NCP-tazopsine completely protected mice from a sporozoite challenge. Unlike the parent molecule, the derivative was uniquely active against Plasmodium hepatic stages.
Conclusions
A readily obtained semisynthetic derivative of a plant-derived compound, tazopsine, has been shown to be specifically active against the liver stage, but inactive against the blood forms of the malaria parasite. This unique specificity in an antimalarial drug severely restricts the pressure for the selection of drug resistance to a parasite stage limited both in numbers and duration, thus allowing researchers to envisage the incorporation of a true causal prophylactic in malaria control programs.
A derivative of a morphinan alkaloid, tazopsine, from a plant used against malaria in Madagascar, is active against the hepatic stages ofPlasmodium species.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The parasite that causes malaria has quickly developed resistance to many of the drugs that are commonly used to treat this disease. As a result, new drugs and drug combinations are needed. In some parts of the world where antimalarial drugs are failing due to resistance, or are not available to everyone, people often turn to traditional herbal remedies instead. These traditional plant remedies can be a useful starting point for development of new drugs, but the process of developing effective new drugs from plant remedies is long and complicated. An important initial step is to isolate and identify the active compounds from plants and then see how well these compounds perform against malaria parasites in laboratory tests. If the tests are successful, such compounds could then progress to experiments in animals and possibly eventually human trials. One plant used widely in Madagascar for treatment of malaria is Strychnopsis thouarsii; the traditional remedy consists of the plant stem bark boiled in water.
Why Was This Study Done?
The group of researchers doing this study wanted to discover candidates for new malaria drugs. They therefore wanted to find out which molecular compounds in the stem bark of S. thouarsii contained antimalarial activity, and what particular stage of the malaria parasite's life cycle these compounds had an effect on. The researchers suspected that the agents in this plant bark had some activity against the “liver stage” of malaria infection in humans. This is the first stage of infection, after a person has been bitten by a malaria-infected mosquito, and before blood cells are invaded by malaria parasites (which then causes the disease symptoms). Very few drugs currently in existence have an effect on the “liver stage” of infection, but activity at this stage would be tremendously useful because it could mean a drug is better for prevention of malaria than others in existence.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
First, the researchers wanted to take the traditional herbal remedy—of S. thouarsii bark boiled in water—and find out precisely which molecule in that remedy was responsible for the antimalarial activity. They therefore used a method called chromatography to progressively separate the herbal extract into its distinct components. At each stage of separation, the extract was checked for activity against malaria using a laboratory test. Inactive extracts were disregarded, and the active component then taken on to a further separation round. After many rounds of separation and testing, the researchers got down to a single, apparently new, molecule that was active against malaria in the laboratory test, and this molecule was named tazopsine (in the Malagasy language the word Tazo refers to malaria). In order to find out how effective the molecule was at killing malaria parasites, the researchers took human or mouse liver cells cultured in the laboratory, infected them with malaria parasites (either the malaria parasite that normally infects humans, or a related species that infects mice), and then added tazopsine at different concentrations. The compound completely killed the malaria parasites even at very low concentrations, and had activity against malaria infecting either liver cells or red blood cells. Tazopsine was then given to mice injected with a species of the malaria parasite. The compound protected most mice against malaria infection when it was used at a dosage level lower than the toxic dose. The researchers then tried making a series of different variants of tazopsine in the hope that some variants would be less toxic, but equally active as, the original compound. They found one variant, named NCP-tazopsine, that was much less toxic but just as active as tazopsine, but only against the malaria infecting liver cells.
What Do These Findings Mean?
In these experiments a new molecule, tazopsine, was discovered from a Malagasy plant, and it was found to be active against liver-stage malaria parasites, in laboratory experiments and in mice. This molecule or variants of it could in future become candidate antimalarial drugs in humans. However, much work would need to be done before testing could get to that stage. Different variants of molecules related to tazopsine would need to be tested to find one that has low toxicity, and these variants would need to be fully evaluated in animals to see how they are handled in the body before any trials could begin in humans.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030513
The World Health Organization publishes a minisite containing links to information about all aspects of malaria worldwide, including treatment, prevention, and current programmes for malaria control
Medicines for Malaria Venture is a collaboration between public and private organizations (including the pharmaceutical industry) that aims to fund and manage the development of new drugs for treatment and prevention of malaria
Wikipedia entries for drug discovery and drug development (note: Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030513
PMCID: PMC1716192  PMID: 17194195
8.  Malaria Burden and Artemisinin Resistance in the Mobile and Migrant Population on the Thai–Myanmar Border, 1999–2011: An Observational Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001398.
Francois Nosten and colleagues evaluate malaria prevalence and incidence in the mobile population on the Myanmar side of the border with Thailand between 1999 and 2011, and also assess resistance to artemisinin.
Background
The Shoklo Malaria Research Unit has been working on the Thai–Myanmar border for 25 y providing early diagnosis and treatment (EDT) of malaria. Transmission of Plasmodium falciparum has declined, but resistance to artesunate has emerged. We expanded malaria activities through EDT and evaluated the impact over a 12-y period.
Methods and Findings
Between 1 October 1999 and 30 September 2011, the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit increased the number of cross-border (Myanmar side) health facilities from two to 11 and recorded the number of malaria consultations. Changes in malaria incidence were estimated from a cohort of pregnant women, and prevalence from cross-sectional surveys. In vivo and in vitro antimalarial drug efficacy were monitored. Over this period, the number of malaria cases detected increased initially, but then declined rapidly. In children under 5 y, the percentage of consultations due to malaria declined from 78% (95% CI 76–80) (1,048/1,344 consultations) to 7% (95% CI 6.2–7.1) (767/11,542 consultations), p<0.001. The ratio of P. falciparum/P. vivax declined from 1.4 (95% CI 1.3–1.4) to 0.7 (95% CI 0.7–0.8). The case fatality rate was low (39/75,126; 0.05% [95% CI 0.04–0.07]). The incidence of malaria declined from 1.1 to 0.1 episodes per pregnant women-year. The cumulative proportion of P. falciparum decreased significantly from 24.3% (95% CI 21.0–28.0) (143/588 pregnant women) to 3.4% (95% CI 2.8–4.3) (76/2,207 pregnant women), p<0.001. The in vivo efficacy of mefloquine-artesunate declined steadily, with a sharp drop in 2011 (day-42 PCR-adjusted cure rate 42% [95% CI 20–62]). The proportion of patients still slide positive for malaria at day 3 rose from 0% in 2000 to reach 28% (95% CI 13–45) (8/29 patients) in 2011.
Conclusions
Despite the emergence of resistance to artesunate in P. falciparum, the strategy of EDT with artemisinin-based combination treatments has been associated with a reduction in malaria in the migrant population living on the Thai–Myanmar border. Although limited by its observational nature, this study provides useful data on malaria burden in a strategically crucial geographical area. Alternative fixed combination treatments are needed urgently to replace the failing first-line regimen of mefloquine and artesunate.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
According to latest figures, the World Health Organization estimates that there are over 200 million cases of malaria each year, with over three-quarters of a million deaths. Several Plasmodium parasites cause malaria (the most serious being Plasmodium falciparum) and are transmitted to people through the bites of infected night-flying mosquitoes. Malaria transmission can be prevented by using insecticides to control the mosquitoes and by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets. However, in Southeast Asia the effectiveness of these measures is limited. Treating infected people with antimalarial drugs, particularly with artemisinin-based combination treatments (ACTs), is a key strategy in reducing the deaths and disability caused by malaria. However, progress is now threatened by the emergence in Southeast Asia of P. falciparum isolates that are resistant to artesunate (a common component of ACT). This development is concerning, as resistance to the artemisinin family of drugs, of which artesunate is a member, could trigger a resurgence in malaria in many parts of the world and compromise the progress made in the treatment of severe malaria.
Why Was This Study Done?
P. falciparum resistance to artemisinin has been confirmed in the area around the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Malaria control in this border area is particularly challenging, as there is a reservoir of malaria in Myanmar (where the disease burden is higher than in Thailand), frequent population movement, and differences in adequate control measures on the two sides of the border. In this study the authors evaluated malaria prevalence and incidence in the mobile population on the Myanmar side of the border between 1 October 1999 and 30 September 2011 to assess whether increasing access to early diagnosis and treatment with ACT was associated with a decline in the malaria burden.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) has been working on the Thai–Myanmar border for 25 years providing early diagnosis and treatment of malaria and has extended its services from two to 11 health care facilities (health posts) on the Myanmar side of the border over the past few years. In order to evaluate any changes in the malaria burden since the expansion of services, the researchers recorded the number of consultations in all SMRU clinics and health posts with confirmed malaria diagnosis and tracked changes in the prevalence of malaria in the population on the Myanmar side of the border (via cross-sectional surveys in villages). The researchers also assessed the incidence of malaria in a cohort of pregnant women living on both sides of the border and monitored antimalarial drug efficacy over this time period.
The researchers found that although the mobile population on the Thai side of the border remained constant, the population in villages covered by the clinics and health posts in the border area increased four-fold. Over the time period, the researchers found that the number of confirmed malaria cases (P. falciparum) increased initially, rising from just over 5,000 in 2000 to a peak of 13,764 in 2006, and then declined to just over 3,500 in 2011. A striking finding was the predominance of infections in young adult males (50,316/90,321; 55.7%). Encouragingly, the percentage of consultations due to malaria in children under five years fell from 78% to 7%, and the incidence of malaria declined from 1.1 to 0.1 episodes per pregnant woman-year. In addition, the proportion of patients admitted to hospital with severe disease was stable, and the number of deaths from malaria remained extremely low, with an overall case fatality rate of 0.05%. The researchers also found that the ratio of P. falciparum to P. vivax infections declined from 1.4 to 0.7, and the prevalence of P. falciparum decreased from 24.3% to 3.4%. However, worryingly, in the small number of patients undertaking drug efficacy tests, the drug efficacy of artesunate declined steadily, with the proportion of patients still infected with malaria at day 3 of treatment increasing from 0% in 2000 to 28% in 2011.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that despite the emergence of resistance to artesunate in P. falciparum, and the decline in the efficacy of ACT, the strategy of early diagnosis and treatment with ACTs has been associated with a reduction in malaria in the population living on the Thai–Myanmar border. Furthermore, these findings suggest that an aggressive strategy based on early detection and treatment of cases, combined with vector control and information, could be the way forward to eliminate malaria. Although there were only a small number of patients involved in drug efficacy tests in 2011, this study shows that alternative fixed combination treatments are needed urgently to replace the failing first-line regimen of mefloquine and artesunate.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001398.
More information about the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit is available
The World Health Organization website has more information about antimalarial drug efficacy and drug resistance
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website tells the malaria resistance story
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001398
PMCID: PMC3589269  PMID: 23472056
9.  A World Malaria Map: Plasmodium falciparum Endemicity in 2007 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(3):e1000048.
Background
Efficient allocation of resources to intervene against malaria requires a detailed understanding of the contemporary spatial distribution of malaria risk. It is exactly 40 y since the last global map of malaria endemicity was published. This paper describes the generation of a new world map of Plasmodium falciparum malaria endemicity for the year 2007.
Methods and Findings
A total of 8,938 P. falciparum parasite rate (PfPR) surveys were identified using a variety of exhaustive search strategies. Of these, 7,953 passed strict data fidelity tests for inclusion into a global database of PfPR data, age-standardized to 2–10 y for endemicity mapping. A model-based geostatistical procedure was used to create a continuous surface of malaria endemicity within previously defined stable spatial limits of P. falciparum transmission. These procedures were implemented within a Bayesian statistical framework so that the uncertainty of these predictions could be evaluated robustly. The uncertainty was expressed as the probability of predicting correctly one of three endemicity classes; previously stratified to be an informative guide for malaria control. Population at risk estimates, adjusted for the transmission modifying effects of urbanization in Africa, were then derived with reference to human population surfaces in 2007. Of the 1.38 billion people at risk of stable P. falciparum malaria, 0.69 billion were found in Central and South East Asia (CSE Asia), 0.66 billion in Africa, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia (Africa+), and 0.04 billion in the Americas. All those exposed to stable risk in the Americas were in the lowest endemicity class (PfPR2−10 ≤ 5%). The vast majority (88%) of those living under stable risk in CSE Asia were also in this low endemicity class; a small remainder (11%) were in the intermediate endemicity class (PfPR2−10 > 5 to < 40%); and the remaining fraction (1%) in high endemicity (PfPR2−10 ≥ 40%) areas. High endemicity was widespread in the Africa+ region, where 0.35 billion people are at this level of risk. Most of the rest live at intermediate risk (0.20 billion), with a smaller number (0.11 billion) at low stable risk.
Conclusions
High levels of P. falciparum malaria endemicity are common in Africa. Uniformly low endemic levels are found in the Americas. Low endemicity is also widespread in CSE Asia, but pockets of intermediate and very rarely high transmission remain. There are therefore significant opportunities for malaria control in Africa and for malaria elimination elsewhere. This 2007 global P. falciparum malaria endemicity map is the first of a series with which it will be possible to monitor and evaluate the progress of this intervention process.
Incorporating data from nearly 8,000 surveys ofPlasmodium falciparum parasite rates, Simon Hay and colleagues employ a model-based geostatistical procedure to create a map of global malaria endemicity.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world and one of the greatest global public health problems. The Plasmodium falciparum parasite causes approximately 500 million cases each year and over one million deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 40% of the world's population is at risk of malaria. The parasite is transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. These insects inject a life stage of the parasite called sporozoites, which invade human liver cells where they reproduce briefly. The liver cells then release merozoites (another life stage of the parasite), which invade red blood cells. Here, they multiply again before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells, causing fever and damaging vital organs. The infected red blood cells also release gametocytes, which infect mosquitoes when they take a blood meal. In the mosquito, the gametocytes multiply and develop into sporozoites, thus completing the parasite's life cycle. Malaria can be prevented by controlling the mosquitoes that spread the parasite and by avoiding mosquito bites by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets. Effective treatment with antimalarial drugs also helps to decrease malaria transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 1998, the World Health Organization and several other international agencies launched Roll Back Malaria, a global partnership that aims to reduce the human and socioeconomic costs of malaria. Targets have been continually raised since this time and have culminated in the Roll Back Malaria Global Malaria Action Plan of 2008, where universal coverage of locally appropriate interventions is called for by 2010 and the long-term goal of malaria eradication again tabled for the international community. For malaria control and elimination initiatives to be effective, financial resources must be concentrated in regions where they will have the most impact, so it is essential to have up-to-date and accurate maps to guide effort and expenditure. In 2008, researchers of the Malaria Atlas Project constructed a map that stratified the world into three levels of malaria risk: no risk, unstable transmission risk (occasional focal outbreaks), and stable transmission risk (endemic areas where the disease is always present). Now, researchers extend this work by describing a new evidence-based method for generating continuous maps of P. falciparum endemicity within the area of stable malaria risk over the entire world's surface. They then use this method to produce a P. falciparum endemicity map for 2007. Endemicity is important as it is a guide to the level of morbidity and mortality a population will suffer, as well as the intensity of the interventions that that will be required to bring the disease under control or additionally to interrupt transmission.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified nearly 8,000 surveys of P. falciparum parasite rates (PfPR; the percentage of a population with parasites detectable in their blood) completed since 1985 that met predefined criteria for inclusion into a global database of PfPR data. They then used “model-based geostatistics” to build a world map of P. falciparum endemicity for 2007 that took into account where and, importantly, when and all these surveys were done. Predictions were comprehensive (for every area of stable transmission globally) and continuous (predicted as a endemicity value between 0% and 100%). The population at risk of three levels of malaria endemicity were identified to help summarize these findings: low endemicity, where PfPR is below 5% and where it should be technically feasible to eliminate malaria; intermediate endemicity where PfPR is between 5% and 40% and it should be theoretically possible to interrupt transmission with the universal coverage of bed nets; high endemicity is where PfPR is above 40% and suites of locally appropriate intervention will be needed to bring malaria under control. The global level of malaria endemicity is much reduced when compared with historical maps. Nevertheless, the resulting map indicates that in 2007 almost 60% of the 2.4 billion people at malaria risk were living in areas with a stable risk of P. falciparum transmission—0.69 billion people in Central and South East Asia (CSE Asia), 0.66 billion in Africa, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia (Africa+), and 0.04 billion in the Americas. The people of the Americas were all in the low endemicity class. Although most people exposed to stable risk in CSE Asia were also in the low endemicity class (88%), 11% were in the intermediate class, and 1% were in the high endemicity class. By contrast, high endemicity was most common and widespread in the Africa+ region (53%), but with significant numbers in the intermediate (30%), and low (17%) endemicity classes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The accuracy of this new world map of P. falciparum endemicity depends on the assumptions made in its construction and critically on the accuracy of the data fed into it, but because of the statistical methods used to construct this map, it is possible to quantify the uncertainty in the results for all users. Thus, this map (which, together with the data used in its construction, will be freely available) represents an important new resource that clearly indicates areas where malaria control can be improved (for example, Africa) and other areas where malaria elimination may be technically possible. In addition, planned annual updates of the global P. falciparum endemicity map and the PfPR database by the Malaria Atlas Project will help public-health experts to monitor the progress of the malaria control community towards international control and elimination targets.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000048.
A PLoS Medicine Health in Action article (Hay SI, Snow RW (2006) The Malaria Atlas Project: Developing Global Maps of Malaria Risk. PLoS Med 3(12): e473) and a Research Article (Guerra CA, Gikandi PW, Tatem AJ, Noor AM, Smith DL, et al. (2008) The Limits and Intensity of Plasmodium falciparum Transmission: Implications for Malaria Control and Elimination Worldwide. PLoS Med 5(2): e38) also provide further details about the global mapping of malaria risk, and a further Research Article (Snow RW, Guerra CA, Mutheu JJ, Hay SI (2008) International Funding for Malaria Control in Relation to Populations at Risk of Stable Plasmodium falciparum Transmission. PLoS Med 5(7): e142) discusses the financing of malaria control in relation to this risk
Additional national and regional level maps and more information on the global mapping of malaria are available at the Malaria Atlas Project
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to the global control of malaria, and on malaria control efforts in specific parts of the world
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000048
PMCID: PMC2659708  PMID: 19323591
10.  A Randomised Controlled Trial of Artemether-Lumefantrine Versus Artesunate for Uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum Treatment in Pregnancy 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e253.
Background
To date no comparative trials have been done, to our knowledge, of fixed-dose artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) for the treatment of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in pregnancy. Evidence on the safety and efficacy of ACTs in pregnancy is needed as these drugs are being used increasingly throughout the malaria-affected world. The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of artemether-lumefantrine, the most widely used fixed ACT, with 7 d artesunate monotherapy in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Methods and Findings
An open-label randomised controlled trial comparing directly observed treatment with artemether-lumefantrine 3 d (AL) or artesunate monotherapy 7 d (AS7) was conducted in Karen women in the border area of northwestern Thailand who had uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The primary endpoint was efficacy defined as the P. falciparum PCR-adjusted cure rates assessed at delivery or by day 42 if this occurred later than delivery, as estimated by Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. Infants were assessed at birth and followed until 1 y of life. Blood sampling was performed to characterise the pharmacokinetics of lumefantrine in pregnancy. Both regimens were very well tolerated. The cure rates (95% confidence interval) for the intention to treat (ITT) population were: AS7 89.2% (82.3%–96.1%) and AL 82.0% (74.8%–89.3%), p = 0.054 (ITT); and AS7 89.7% (82.6%–96.8%) and AL 81.2% (73.6%–88.8%), p = 0.031 (per-protocol population). One-third of the PCR-confirmed recrudescent cases occurred after 42 d of follow-up. Birth outcomes and infant (up to age 1 y) outcomes did not differ significantly between the two groups. The pharmacokinetic study indicated that low concentrations of artemether and lumefantrine were the main contributors to the poor efficacy of AL.
Conclusion
The current standard six-dose artemether-lumefantrine regimen was well tolerated and safe in pregnant Karen women with uncomplicated falciparum malaria, but efficacy was inferior to 7 d artesunate monotherapy and was unsatisfactory for general deployment in this geographic area. Reduced efficacy probably results from low drug concentrations in later pregnancy. A longer or more frequent AL dose regimen may be needed to treat pregnant women effectively and should now be evaluated. Parasitological endpoints in clinical trials of any antimalarial drug treatment in pregnancy should be extended to delivery or day 42 if it comes later.
Trial Registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN86353884
Rose McGready and colleagues show that an artemether-lumefantrine regimen is well tolerated and safe in pregnant Karen women with uncomplicated falciparum malaria, but efficacy is inferior to artesunate, probably because of low drug concentrations in later pregnancy.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Plasmodium falciparum, a mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria, kills nearly one million people every year. Although most deaths occur among young children, malaria during pregnancy is also an important public-health problem. In areas where malaria transmission is high (stable transmission), women acquire a degree of immunity. Although less symptomatic than women who lack natural protection, their babies are often small and sickly because malaria-related anemia (lack of red blood cells) and parasites in the placenta limit the nutrients supplied to the baby before birth. By contrast, in areas where malaria transmission is low (unstable transmission or sporadic outbreaks), women have little immunity to P. falciparum. If these women become infected during pregnancy, “uncomplicated” malaria (fever, chills, and anemia) can rapidly progress to “severe” malaria (in which vital organs are damaged), which can be fatal to the mother and/or her unborn child unless prompt and effective treatment is given.
Why Was This Study Done?
Malaria parasites are now resistant to many of the older antimalarial drugs (for example, quinine). So, since 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that uncomplicated malaria during the second and third trimester of pregnancy is treated with short course (3 d) fixed-dose artemisinin combination therapy (ACT; quinine is still used in early pregnancy because it is not known whether ACT damages fetal development, which mainly occurs during the first 3 mo of pregnancy). Artemisinin derivatives are fast-acting antimalarial agents that are used in combination with another antimalarial drug to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug. The most widely used fixed-dose ACT is artemether–lumefantrine (AL) but, although several trials have examined the safety and efficacy of this treatment in non-pregnant women, little is known about how well it works in pregnant women. In this study, the researchers compare the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of AL with a 7-d course of artesunate monotherapy (AS7; another artemisinin derivative) in the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in pregnancy in northwest Thailand, an area with unstable but highly drug resistant malaria transmission.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 253 women with uncomplicated malaria during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy into their open-label trial (a trial in which the patients and their health-care workers know who is receiving which drug regimen). Half the women received each type of treatment. The trial's main outcome was the “PCR-adjusted cure rate” at delivery or 42 d after treatment if this occurred after delivery. This cure rate was assessed by examining blood smears for parasites and then using a technique called PCR to determine which cases of malaria were new infections (classified as treatment successes along with negative blood smears) and which were recurrences of an old infection (classified as treatment failures). The PCR-adjusted cure rates were 89.7% and 81.2% for AS7 and AL, respectively. Both treatments were well tolerated, few side effects were seen with either treatment, and infant health and development at birth and up to 1 y old were similar with both regimens. Finally, an analysis of blood samples taken 7 d after treatment with AL showed that blood levels of lumefantrine were below those previously associated with treatment failure in about a third of the women tested.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings indicate that the AL regimen is a well tolerated and safe treatment for uncomplicated malaria in pregnant women living in northwest Thailand, the efficacy of this treatment was lower than that of artesunate monotherapy. In fact, neither treatment reached the 90% cure rate recommended by WHO for ACTs and it is likely that cure rates in a more realistic situation (that is, not in a trial where efforts are made to make sure everyone completes their treatment) would be even lower. The findings also suggest that the reduced efficacy of the AL regimen in pregnant women compared to the efficacy previously seen in non-pregnant women may be caused by lower drug blood levels during pregnancy. Thus, a higher-dose AL regimen (or an alternative ACT) may be needed to successfully treat uncomplicated malaria during pregnancy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050253.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages), and their 2006 Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria includes specific recommendations for the treatment of pregnant women
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria and on malaria during pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on malaria during pregnancy, on artemisinin-based combination therapies, and on malaria in Thailand
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050253
PMCID: PMC2605900  PMID: 19265453
11.  Impact of Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapy and Insecticide-Treated Nets on Malaria Burden in Zanzibar 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e309.
Background
The Roll Back Malaria strategy recommends a combination of interventions for malaria control. Zanzibar implemented artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for uncomplicated malaria in late 2003 and long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) from early 2006. ACT is provided free of charge to all malaria patients, while LLINs are distributed free to children under age 5 y (“under five”) and pregnant women. We investigated temporal trends in Plasmodium falciparum prevalence and malaria-related health parameters following the implementation of these two malaria control interventions in Zanzibar.
Methods and Findings
Cross-sectional clinical and parasitological surveys in children under the age of 14 y were conducted in North A District in May 2003, 2005, and 2006. Survey data were analyzed in a logistic regression model and adjusted for complex sampling design and potential confounders. Records from all 13 public health facilities in North A District were analyzed for malaria-related outpatient visits and admissions. Mortality and demographic data were obtained from District Commissioner's Office. P. falciparum prevalence decreased in children under five between 2003 and 2006; using 2003 as the reference year, odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were, for 2005, 0.55 (0.28–1.08), and for 2006, 0.03 (0.00–0.27); p for trend < 0.001. Between 2002 and 2005 crude under-five, infant (under age 1 y), and child (aged 1–4 y) mortality decreased by 52%, 33%, and 71%, respectively. Similarly, malaria-related admissions, blood transfusions, and malaria-attributed mortality decreased significantly by 77%, 67% and 75%, respectively, between 2002 and 2005 in children under five. Climatic conditions favorable for malaria transmission persisted throughout the observational period.
Conclusions
Following deployment of ACT in Zanzibar 2003, malaria-associated morbidity and mortality decreased dramatically within two years. Additional distribution of LLINs in early 2006 resulted in a 10-fold reduction of malaria parasite prevalence. The results indicate that the Millennium Development Goals of reducing mortality in children under five and alleviating the burden of malaria are achievable in tropical Africa with high coverage of combined malaria control interventions.
Zanzibar has implemented artemisinin-based combination therapy for uncomplicated malaria, plus long-lasting insecticidal nets. Achuyt Bhattarai and colleagues found malaria morbidity and mortality decreased dramatically within two years.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria kills about one million people every year, many of them young children living in sub-Saharan Africa. The parasite responsible for these deaths—Plasmodium falciparum—is transmitted to people when they are bitten (usually at night) by an infected mosquito. In the human body, the parasites reproduce in the liver before invading red blood cells. Here, they multiply again before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells as well as causing a high fever and sometimes damaging vital organs. The transmission cycle is completed when a mosquito bites an infected person and ingests parasites with its blood meal. To reduce the global burden of malaria, this cycle needs to be broken. This can be done in several ways. First, mosquitoes can be controlled with insecticides. Second, individuals can avoid mosquito bites by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets. Finally, antimalaria drugs can reduce the illness and death caused by the malaria parasite and can lessen the likelihood that a mosquito will pick up the parasite when it bites a person. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) for malaria control. These contain a natural antimalarial compound from sweet wormwood and a synthetic drug. The use of insecticide-treated nets is also now being strongly promoted.
Why Was This Study Done?
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership—a coordinated global approach to fighting malaria—recommends that the strategies described above be combined to control malaria. But, although the public-health impact of insecticidal nets (ITNs) has been investigated, the large-scale effect of ACT use and the combined ACT/ITN effect in a malaria-endemic area has not been studied. This information is needed to allow governments and international agencies to use their resources as effectively as possible to control malaria. In this study, the researchers have asked how the introduction of ACT, first alone and later combined with distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), affected the malaria burden in Zanzibar, a malaria-endemic country. People with malaria have had free access to ACT in Zanzibar since late 2003; children under the age of 5 y and pregnant women have been given free LLINs since early 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers counted the parasites in the blood of a group of children under the age of 14 years in the North A District of Zanzibar in May 2003, 2005, and 2006 (the seasonal peaks for malaria in Zanzibar occur in March–May and October–December). They also looked in local health records for malaria-related outpatient visits and admissions between 2000 and 2005 and analyzed the overall death records for the region over the same period. Between 2003 (before the introduction of ACT) and 2005, the proportion of children under five with P. falciparum in their blood halved (a 2-fold decrease). It decreased another 10-fold between 2005 and 2006 after the distribution of LLINs to this age group. Deaths from all causes in children under five halved between 2002 and 2005, and malaria-related admissions and death attributed to malaria in 2005 in these children were one-fourth of those recorded in 2002. The climate in Zanzibar remained favorable for malaria transmission throughout this period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that malaria-associated illness (outpatient malaria diagnosis) decreased by 77% and overall deaths in children decreased to about half in Zanzibar within two years of the introduction of ACT. Free distribution of LLINs from early 2006 to children under five produced a further significant reduction in parasite prevalence in this age group and a smaller but also important reduction in parasite prevalence in older children. Because these results only show short-term trends in the malaria burden associated with the introduction of these control strategies, they need confirmation in longer studies. They also need confirmation in other countries because the malaria burden in Zanzibar could have fallen for reasons unrelated to ACT or LLINs, such as other changes in medical practice. Nevertheless, these results strongly suggest that ACTs together with the widespread use of LLINs could help achieve the goal of eliminating malaria as a public-health problem in sub-Saharan Africa, provided the poor countries in this region can sustain these control strategies over the long term.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040309.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and Chinese)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria and on insecticide-treated nets (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to global control of malaria, on malaria in Zanzibar, part of the United Republic of Tanzania, on artemisinin-based combination therapy, and on the use of insecticide-treated nets
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040309
PMCID: PMC2062481  PMID: 17988171
12.  A Head-to-Head Comparison of Four Artemisinin-Based Combinations for Treating Uncomplicated Malaria in African Children: A Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001119.
The Four Artemisinin-Based Combinations (4ABC) Study Group reports a randomized, non-inferiority trial comparing the efficacy and safety of four ACTs in children with mild Plasmodium falciparum malaria from seven sub-Saharan African countries.
Background
Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are the mainstay for the management of uncomplicated malaria cases. However, up-to-date data able to assist sub-Saharan African countries formulating appropriate antimalarial drug policies are scarce.
Methods and Findings
Between 9 July 2007 and 19 June 2009, a randomized, non-inferiority (10% difference threshold in efficacy at day 28) clinical trial was carried out at 12 sites in seven sub-Saharan African countries. Each site compared three of four ACTs, namely amodiaquine-artesunate (ASAQ), dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DHAPQ), artemether-lumefantrine (AL), or chlorproguanil-dapsone-artesunate (CD+A). Overall, 4,116 children 6–59 mo old with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria were treated (1,226 with AL, 1,002 with ASAQ, 413 with CD+A, and 1,475 with DHAPQ), actively followed up until day 28, and then passively followed up for the next 6 mo. At day 28, for the PCR-adjusted efficacy, non-inferiority was established for three pair-wise comparisons: DHAPQ (97.3%) versus AL (95.5%) (odds ratio [OR]: 0.59, 95% CI: 0.37–0.94); DHAPQ (97.6%) versus ASAQ (96.8%) (OR: 0.74, 95% CI: 0.41–1.34), and ASAQ (97.1%) versus AL (94.4%) (OR: 0.50, 95% CI: 0.28–0.92). For the PCR-unadjusted efficacy, AL was significantly less efficacious than DHAPQ (72.7% versus 89.5%) (OR: 0.27, 95% CI: 0.21–0.34) and ASAQ (66.2% versus 80.4%) (OR: 0.40, 95% CI: 0.30–0.53), while DHAPQ (92.2%) had higher efficacy than ASAQ (80.8%) but non-inferiority could not be excluded (OR: 0.35, 95% CI: 0.26–0.48). CD+A was significantly less efficacious than the other three treatments. Day 63 results were similar to those observed at day 28.
Conclusions
This large head-to-head comparison of most currently available ACTs in sub-Saharan Africa showed that AL, ASAQ, and DHAPQ had excellent efficacy, up to day 63 post-treatment. The risk of recurrent infections was significantly lower for DHAPQ, followed by ASAQ and then AL, supporting the recent recommendation of considering DHAPQ as a valid option for the treatment of uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00393679; Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR2009010000911750
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a global public-health problem. Half the world's population is at risk of this mosquito-borne parasitic disease, which kills a million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Although several parasites cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for most of these deaths. During the second half of the 20th century, the main treatments for malaria were inexpensive “monotherapies” such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. Unfortunately, the malaria parasite quickly developed resistance to many of these monotherapies, and in the 1990 s, there was a widespread upsurge in P. falciparum malaria. To combat this increase, the World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for first-line treatment of P. falciparum malaria in all regions where there is drug-resistant malaria. In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (new, fast-acting antimalarial drugs) are used in combination with another antimalarial drug (a partner drug) to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
WHO currently recommends five ACTs—amodiaquine-artesunate (ASAQ), dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DHAPQ), artemether-lumefantrine (AL), artesunate-mefloquine, and artesunate-sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine—for the treatment of malaria. Its treatment guidelines state that the choice of ACT in a country or region should be based on the local level of resistance to the non-artemisinin-based partner drug in the combination. However, data on resistance levels to these partner drugs are scarce or unavailable for many sub-Saharan African countries. To help these countries make an informed choice about their national antimalarial treatment policies, in this randomized, non-inferiority trial, the researchers compare the efficacy and safety of four ACTs in African children with uncomplicated (mild) P. falciparum malaria. In a randomized trial, groups of randomly chosen patients with a specific disease are given different treatments and then followed to compare the outcomes of these interventions. A non-inferiority trial investigates whether one treatment is not worse than another treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Each of twelve sites in seven sub-Saharan African countries compared three ACTs out of ASAQ, DHAPQ, AL, and chlorproguanil-dapsone-artesunate (CD+A). Overall, 4,116 young children with uncomplicated malaria were treated with ACT, actively followed up for 28 days (their parents brought them back to the site for pre-arranged check-ups), and passively followed up for six months (parents brought their children back if they developed any illnesses). At each visit, blood samples were examined for the presence of parasites, and a technique called PCR was used to determine which cases of malaria were new infections and which were recurrences of the original infection. The researchers then calculated the percentage of patients with no infection or with a new infection (the PCR-adjusted adequate clinical and parasitological response [ACPR]) and the percentage of patients with no infection (the PCR-unadjusted ACPR). For the PCR-adjusted efficacy, three pair-wise comparisons (DHAPQ versus AL, DHAPQ versus ASAQ, and ASAQ versus AL) showed non-inferiority at 28 days. That is, for example, similar percentages of patients given DHAPQ or AL (97.3% and 95.5%, respectively) had either no infection or a new infection. CD+A was less efficacious than the other three treatments. For the PCR-unadjusted efficacy, AL was significantly less efficacious than DHAPQ and ASAQ; DHAPQ had a higher efficacy than ASAQ, but non-inferiority could not be excluded. That is, the difference in efficacy of these two drugs might have happened by chance.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that AL, ASAQ, and DHAPQ are all efficacious for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in children; CD+A was withdrawn partway through the trial because of side effects, but these findings also suggest that it was less efficacious than the other ACTs. Importantly, the PCR-unadjusted results indicate that the risk of children becoming re-infected with malaria parasites soon after treatment was lowest for DHAPQ, followed by ASAQ, and then AL. Because these findings are based on pooled results from seven sub-Saharan African countries, they are likely to be generalizable and thus of use in setting national antimalarial drug policies throughout the region. AL and ASAQ are already included in the antimalarial drug policies of many sub-Saharan African countries, note the researchers, but these findings support the WHO recommendation that DHAPQ should also be considered for the treatment for uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001119.
Information is available from WHO on malaria (in several languages); the 2010 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation; the WHO Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria and the report Assessment and Monitoring of Antimalarial Drug Efficacy for the Treatment of Uncomplicated Malaria are available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria including fact sheets about ACTs and about malaria in Africa
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001119
PMCID: PMC3210754  PMID: 22087077
13.  The Effect of Dosing Regimens on the Antimalarial Efficacy of Dihydroartemisinin-Piperaquine: A Pooled Analysis of Individual Patient Data 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001564.
Ric Price and colleagues pool individual patient data from efficacy trials of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine shared with WWARN (Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network) to examine the potential for underdosing in young children.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) is increasingly recommended for antimalarial treatment in many endemic countries; however, concerns have been raised over its potential under dosing in young children. We investigated the influence of different dosing schedules on DP's clinical efficacy.
Methods and Findings
A systematic search of the literature was conducted to identify all studies published between 1960 and February 2013, in which patients were enrolled and treated with DP. Principal investigators were approached and invited to share individual patient data with the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN). Data were pooled using a standardised methodology. Univariable and multivariable risk factors for parasite recrudescence were identified using a Cox's regression model with shared frailty across the study sites. Twenty-four published and two unpublished studies (n = 7,072 patients) were included in the analysis. After correcting for reinfection by parasite genotyping, Kaplan–Meier survival estimates were 97.7% (95% CI 97.3%–98.1%) at day 42 and 97.2% (95% CI 96.7%–97.7%) at day 63. Overall 28.6% (979/3,429) of children aged 1 to 5 years received a total dose of piperaquine below 48 mg/kg (the lower limit recommended by WHO); this risk was 2.3–2.9-fold greater compared to that in the other age groups and was associated with reduced efficacy at day 63 (94.4% [95% CI 92.6%–96.2%], p<0.001). After adjusting for confounding factors, the mg/kg dose of piperaquine was found to be a significant predictor for recrudescence, the risk increasing by 13% (95% CI 5.0%–21%) for every 5 mg/kg decrease in dose; p = 0.002. In a multivariable model increasing the target minimum total dose of piperaquine in children aged 1 to 5 years old from 48 mg/kg to 59 mg/kg would halve the risk of treatment failure and cure at least 95% of patients; such an increment was not associated with gastrointestinal toxicity in the ten studies in which this could be assessed.
Conclusions
DP demonstrates excellent efficacy in a wide range of transmission settings; however, treatment failure is associated with a lower dose of piperaquine, particularly in young children, suggesting potential for further dose optimisation.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Half of the world's population is at risk of malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills a million people (mainly young children in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. During the second half of the 20th century, the main treatments for malaria were “monotherapies” such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. Unfortunately, parasitic resistance to these drugs rapidly spread and, in the 1990s, there was an upsurge in the illness and death caused by Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for most malarial deaths. To combat this increase, the World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for first-line treatment of P. falciparum malaria wherever malaria is endemic (always present). In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (antimalarial drugs that rapidly reduce the parasitic load in the patient and that are rapidly cleared from the body) are used in combination with a slower acting, more slowly eliminated partner drug that prevents recrudescent infections (re-emergences of the original infection).
Why Was This Study Done?
ACT reduces the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either the artemisinin derivative or the partner drug, but sub-optimal dosing can result in incomplete elimination of the initial parasitic infection and/or recrudescence. Both these situations drive the selection of parasites with reduced drug susceptibility. Unfortunately, current dosing strategies are usually based on weight or age bands that were determined during early drug development. Inevitably, some patients at the margins of these bands receive inappropriate doses—either too high or too low. Moreover, the doses recommended for children are extrapolated from adult doses and may not be optimal because children are not merely small adults—their drug responses often differ from those of adults. Here, researchers from the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) investigate the influence of different dosing schedules on the clinical efficacy of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP, an ACT first recommended by WHO for the treatment of uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in 2010) by undertaking a pooled analysis of individual patient data collected during ACT clinical studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified all the studies published between 1960 and February 2013 in which patients were treated with DP and obtained individual patient data for almost 70% of study participants (more than 7,000 patients living in Asia, Africa, and South America) from the principal investigators. These data were pooled and statistical models were used to identify risk factors for parasite recrudescence (parasite genotyping was used to correct for re-infection with a new parasite). Overall, DP treatment was successful (judged by parasitological clearance) in 97.7% and 97.2% of patients at day 42 and 63, respectively, after treatment. However, 28.6% of children aged 1–5 years received a total dose of piperaquine over the 3-day DP dosing schedule of below 48 mg/kg body weight (the lower limit of dosing recommended by WHO). Children aged 1–5 years had a 2.9-fold higher risk of receiving a dose of piperaquine below 48 mg/kg than children aged 5–12 years. Moreover, the piperaquine dose was a significant predictor of recrudescence. For every 5 mg/kg decrease in dose, the risk of recrudescence increased by 13%. Finally, the researchers estimated that increasing the target dose of piperaquine in children aged 1–5 years to 59 mg/kg would halve the risk of treatment failure and cure at least 95% of young children.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that DP treatment of malaria has a good efficacy in a wide range of settings but indicate that young children are at a higher risk of treatment failure than the overall population and that treatment failure, particularly in young children, is associated with a lower dose of piperaquine. Although the accuracy of these findings may be limited by some aspects of this study (for example, drug doses could only be calculated from the actual tablets taken in a quarter of the patients; in the remainder, they were extrapolated from the relevant study protocol), they nevertheless suggest that further detailed dose optimization studies in young children are essential to prolong the useful therapeutic life of DP. Moreover, if global elimination of malaria is to be achieved, similar pooled analyses to assess the efficacy of other drug combinations should be undertaken to ensure that ACT remains therapeutically useful for as long as possible.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001564.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Paul Garner
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2012 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation; the 2010 WHO Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria are available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria including fact sheets about ACT
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information on the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001564
PMCID: PMC3848996  PMID: 24311989
14.  G6PD Deficiency Prevalence and Estimates of Affected Populations in Malaria Endemic Countries: A Geostatistical Model-Based Map 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001339.
Rosalind Howes and colleagues present a map of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency prevalence and severity. Individuals with the deficiency are at risk of mild to severe hemolysis when taking the antimalarial primaquine.
Background
Primaquine is a key drug for malaria elimination. In addition to being the only drug active against the dormant relapsing forms of Plasmodium vivax, primaquine is the sole effective treatment of infectious P. falciparum gametocytes, and may interrupt transmission and help contain the spread of artemisinin resistance. However, primaquine can trigger haemolysis in patients with a deficiency in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDd). Poor information is available about the distribution of individuals at risk of primaquine-induced haemolysis. We present a continuous evidence-based prevalence map of G6PDd and estimates of affected populations, together with a national index of relative haemolytic risk.
Methods and Findings
Representative community surveys of phenotypic G6PDd prevalence were identified for 1,734 spatially unique sites. These surveys formed the evidence-base for a Bayesian geostatistical model adapted to the gene's X-linked inheritance, which predicted a G6PDd allele frequency map across malaria endemic countries (MECs) and generated population-weighted estimates of affected populations. Highest median prevalence (peaking at 32.5%) was predicted across sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Although G6PDd prevalence was generally lower across central and southeast Asia, rarely exceeding 20%, the majority of G6PDd individuals (67.5% median estimate) were from Asian countries. We estimated a G6PDd allele frequency of 8.0% (interquartile range: 7.4–8.8) across MECs, and 5.3% (4.4–6.7) within malaria-eliminating countries. The reliability of the map is contingent on the underlying data informing the model; population heterogeneity can only be represented by the available surveys, and important weaknesses exist in the map across data-sparse regions. Uncertainty metrics are used to quantify some aspects of these limitations in the map. Finally, we assembled a database of G6PDd variant occurrences to inform a national-level index of relative G6PDd haemolytic risk. Asian countries, where variants were most severe, had the highest relative risks from G6PDd.
Conclusions
G6PDd is widespread and spatially heterogeneous across most MECs where primaquine would be valuable for malaria control and elimination. The maps and population estimates presented here reflect potential risk of primaquine-associated harm. In the absence of non-toxic alternatives to primaquine, these results represent additional evidence to help inform safe use of this valuable, yet dangerous, component of the malaria-elimination toolkit.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a parasitic infection that is transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Of the four parasites that cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly and P. vivax is the commonest and most widely distributed. Malaria parasites have a complex life cycle. Infected mosquitoes inject “sporozoites” into people, a form of the parasite that replicates inside human liver cells. After a few days, the liver cells release “merozoites,” which invade red blood cells where they replicate rapidly before bursting out and infecting other red blood cells. This increase in the parasitic burden causes malaria's characteristic fever and can cause organ damage and death. Infected red blood cells also release “gametocytes,” which infect mosquitoes when they take a blood meal. In the mosquito, gametocytes multiply and develop into sporozoites, thus completing the parasite's life cycle. Malaria can be prevented by controlling the mosquitoes that spread the parasite and by avoiding mosquito bites by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets. Treatment with effective antimalarial drugs also decreases malaria transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
The Global Malaria Action Plan aims to reduce malaria deaths to zero by 2015 and to eradicate malaria in the long-term through its progressive elimination in malaria-endemic countries (countries where malaria is always present). Primaquine is a key drug for malaria elimination. It is the only treatment effective against the gametocytes that transmit malaria between people and mosquitoes and against P. vivax “hypnozoites,” which hibernate in the liver and cause malaria relapses. Unfortunately, primaquine induces mild to severe destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis) in people who have a deficiency in the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). G6PD deficiency (G6PDd) is common in some ethnic groups but the global distribution of individuals at risk of primaquine-induced hemolysis is unknown and there is no practical field test for G6PDd. Consequently, it is hard to design and implement primaquine treatment practices that balance the benefits of malaria transmission reduction and relapse prevention against the risk of hemolysis. Here, the researchers use a geostatistical model to map the prevalence (frequency in a population) of G6PDd in malaria-endemic countries and to estimate how many people are affected in these countries. They also develop a national index of relative hemolytic risk.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers fed data from community surveys of the prevalence of phenotypic G6PDd (reduced enzyme activity) for 1,734 sites (including 1,289 sites in malaria-endemic countries) into a geostatistical model originally developed to map global malaria endemicity. The model predicted that G6PDd is widespread across malaria-endemic regions, with the lowest prevalences in the Americas and the highest in tropical Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but that most G6PDd individuals live in Asian countries. The predicted prevalence of G6PDd varied considerably over relatively short distances in many areas but, averaged across malaria-endemic countries it was 8%, which corresponds to about 350 million affected individuals; averaged across countries that are currently planning for malaria elimination, the prevalence was 5.3% (nearly 100 million affected individuals). Finally, the researchers used data on the geographical occurrence of G6PD variants classified according to their enzyme activity levels as mild or severe to derive an index of hemolytic risk from G6PDd for each malaria-endemic country. The greatest risk was in the Arabian Peninsula and west Asia where the predicted prevalence of G6PDd and the occurrence of severe G6PD variants were both high.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that G6PDd is widespread and spatially heterogeneous across most of the malaria-endemic countries where primaquine would be valuable for malaria control and elimination. The accuracy of these findings is limited, however, by the assumptions made in the geostatistical model, by the accuracy of the data fed into the model, and by the lack of data for some malaria-endemic countries. Moreover, there is considerable uncertainty associated with the proposed index of hemolysis risk because it is based on phenotypic G6PDd enzyme activity classifications, which is presumed, but not widely demonstrated, to be a surrogate marker for hemolysis. Nevertheless, these findings pave the way for further data collection and for the refinement of G6PDd maps that, in the absence of non-toxic alternatives to primaquine, will guide the design of safe primaquine regimens for the elimination of malaria.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001339.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria; its 2011 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation (some information is available in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on the Global Malaria Action Plan
Information on the global mapping of malaria is available at the Malaria Atlas Project website where G6PD deficiency prevalence maps, population estimates and the data used in this study can also be accessed
Information about G6PD deficiency for affected families can be found on KidsHealth from the Nemous Children's Health System and the G6PD Deficiency Association website
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria; the MedlinePlus Encyclopedia provides information about G6PD deficiency (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001339
PMCID: PMC3496665  PMID: 23152723
15.  Population Pharmacokinetics of Artesunate and Dihydroartemisinin following Intra-Rectal Dosing of Artesunate in Malaria Patients 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e444.
Background
Intra-rectal artesunate has been developed as a potentially life-saving treatment of severe malaria in rural village settings where administration of parenteral antimalarial drugs is not possible. We studied the population pharmacokinetics of intra-rectal artesunate and the relationship with parasitological responses in patients with moderately severe falciparum malaria.
Methods and Findings
Adults and children in Africa and Southeast Asia with moderately severe malaria were recruited in two Phase II studies (12 adults from Southeast Asia and 11 children from Africa) with intensive sampling protocols, and three Phase III studies (44 children from Southeast Asia, and 86 children and 26 adults from Africa) with sparse sampling. All patients received 10 mg/kg artesunate as a single intra-rectal dose of suppositories. Venous blood samples were taken during a period of 24 h following dosing. Plasma artesunate and dihydroartemisinin (DHA, the main biologically active metabolite) concentrations were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. The pharmacokinetic properties of DHA were determined using nonlinear mixed-effects modelling. Artesunate is rapidly hydrolysed in vivo to DHA, and this contributes the majority of antimalarial activity. For DHA, a one-compartment model assuming complete conversion from artesunate and first-order appearance and elimination kinetics gave the best fit to the data. The mean population estimate of apparent clearance (CL/F) was 2.64 (l/kg/h) with 66% inter-individual variability. The apparent volume of distribution (V/F) was 2.75 (l/kg) with 96% inter-individual variability. The estimated DHA population mean elimination half-life was 43 min. Gender was associated with increased mean CL/F by 1.14 (95% CI: 0.36–1.92) (l/kg/h) for a male compared with a female, and weight was positively associated with V/F. Larger V/Fs were observed for the patients requiring early rescue treatment compared with the remainder, independent of any confounders. No associations between the parasitological responses and the posterior individual estimates of V/F, CL/F, and AUC0–6h were observed.
Conclusions
The pharmacokinetic properties of DHA were affected only by gender and body weight. Patients with the lowest area under the DHA concentration curve did not have slower parasite clearance, suggesting that rectal artesunate is well absorbed in most patients with moderately severe malaria. However, a number of modelling assumptions were required due to the large intra- and inter-individual variability of the DHA concentrations.
A study of the population pharmacokinetics of intra-rectal artesunate in patients with moderately severe falciparum malaria found the pharmacokinetic properties of dihydroartemisinin were affected only by gender and body weight.
Editors' Summary
Background.
More than 40% of the world's population is at risk of malaria, a tropical parasitic disease that is transmitted between people by infected mosquitoes. Malaria parasites cause a 'flu-like illness that includes chills, fevers, headaches, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. If untreated, people with malaria can rapidly become anemic—the parasite destroys their red blood cells—or can develop complications that damage the brain and other organs. Severe malaria can be fatal and must be treated quickly. It has become a matter of great concern that the parasite has developed resistance to most of the drugs used to treat or prevent malaria. In the past few years, artemisinin derivatives have been shown to be an effective new form of treatment. Artemisinin derivatives are effective, rapid-acting antimalarial drugs—wormwood, the plant source of artemisinin, is an ancient Chinese cure for malaria. Artesunate, a water-soluble derivative of artemisinin, can be given as tablets or as injections. However, people with severe malaria often cannot take oral medicines, and in rural settings in the developing world, artesunate injections are usually impracticable. Consequently, rectal artesunate suppositories have been developed to provide first-line treatment of severe malaria in these settings. This simple dosing method can “buy” patients valuable time during which they can be moved to a hospital for further treatment.
Why Was This Study Done?
When treating severe malaria, it is important that every patient absorbs the antimalarial drug rapidly and efficiently into their blood. If even a small proportion of patients malabsorb the drug, many people could die. How the body processes a drug is known as pharmacokinetics, and although some pharmacokinetic studies have investigated how the body processes artesunate given in rectal suppositories, relatively little is know about the population pharmacokinetics of artesunate given this way. That is, the patient characteristics that affect the processing of intra-rectal artesunate are not known, and it is unclear whether a small proportion of the population might fail to absorb the drug given via this route. In this study, the researchers have developed and tested a population pharmacokinetic model for artesunate given rectally to children and adults with moderately severe malaria.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers took serial blood samples from nearly 200 patients with moderately severe malaria in Africa and Southeast Asia for the first 24 hours after they received a rectal artesunate suppository. They measured the levels of artesunate and dihydroartemisinin (DHA; the body rapidly converts artesunate to DHA, which kills the malaria parasites) in these samples and used these data to build a pharmacokinetic model for how the body processes. Averaged out across the patients, they calculated, for example, that half of the drug present absorbed was eliminated within 43 minutes. To find out whether any patient characteristics affected the pharmacokinetics of intra-rectal artesunate, the researchers used their model to estimate the clearance of DHA from the body and the ability of DHA to spread through the body (so-called apparent volume of distribution) for the study patients. This analysis showed that only gender and weight affected DHA pharmacokinetics. Finally, the researchers showed that how well the parasite was cleared from the patients was not related to these pharmacokinetic parameters, although the need for earlier rescue treatment was associated with a larger volume of distribution for DHA. Importantly, the parasitological response was not affected by the estimated cumulative amount of DHA absorbed into the blood during the first six hours after treatment.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The data presented in this study indicate that individual patients processed artesunate very differently in terms of how they absorbed the drug and how it spread around the body. Even so, the maximal effects of artesunate on the malaria parasite were achieved rapidly in nearly all the patients. This and other pharmacokinetic findings must be interpreted with caution, warn the researchers, because their model included many assumptions to allow, for example, for the variability of DHA concentrations both within individual patients and between patients. Nevertheless, the findings provide important clues about which patient characteristics might cause early treatment failure, and indicate that artesunate is sufficiently well absorbed via the rectal route in most patients to make artesunate suppositories a promising first-line treatment for moderately severe malaria.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030444.
• World Health Organization links to general information on malaria plus specific information on rectal artesunate
• MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on malaria
• US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information on malaria for patients and professionals
• Wikipedia pages on malaria and artemisinin (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030444
PMCID: PMC1664603  PMID: 17132053
16.  The Impact of Retail-Sector Delivery of Artemether–Lumefantrine on Malaria Treatment of Children under Five in Kenya: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1000437.
In a cluster randomized trial, Beth Kangwana and colleagues find that provision of subsidized packs of the malaria therapy artemether-lumefantrine to shops more than doubled the proportion of children with fever who received drugs promptly.
Background
It has been proposed that artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) be subsidised in the private sector in order to improve affordability and access. This study in western Kenya aimed to evaluate the impact of providing subsidized artemether–lumefantrine (AL) through retail providers on the coverage of prompt, effective antimalarial treatment for febrile children aged 3–59 months.
Methods and Findings
We used a cluster-randomized, controlled design with nine control and nine intervention sublocations, equally distributed across three districts in western Kenya. Cross-sectional household surveys were conducted before and after the delivery of the intervention. The intervention comprised provision of subsidized packs of paediatric ACT to retail outlets, training of retail outlet staff, and community awareness activities. The primary outcome was defined as the proportion of children aged 3–59 months reporting fever in the past 2 weeks who started treatment with AL on the same day or following day of fever onset. Data were collected using structured questionnaires and analyzed based on cluster-level summaries, comparing control to intervention arms, while adjusting for other covariates. Data were collected on 2,749 children in the target age group at baseline and 2,662 at follow-up. 29% of children experienced fever within 2 weeks before the interview. At follow-up, the percentage of children receiving AL on the day of fever or the following day had risen by 14.6% points in the control arm (from 5.3% [standard deviation (SD): 3.2%] to 19.9% [SD: 10.0%]) and 40.2% points in the intervention arm (from 4.7% [SD: 3.4%] to 44.9% [SD: 11.7%]). The percentage of children receiving AL was significantly greater in the intervention arm at follow-up, with a difference between the arms of 25.0% points (95% confidence interval [CI]: 14.1%, 35.9%; unadjusted p = 0.0002, adjusted p = 0.0001). No significant differences were observed between arms in the proportion of caregivers who sought treatment for their child's fever by source, or in the child's adherence to AL.
Conclusions
Subsidizing ACT in the retail sector can significantly increase ACT coverage for reported fevers in rural areas. Further research is needed on the impact and cost-effectiveness of such subsidy programmes at a national scale.
Trial Registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN59275137 and Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board Ethical Committee for Clinical Trials PPB/ECCT/08/07.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a major global public-health problem. Half the world's population is at risk of this mosquito-borne parasitic disease, which kills a million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Although several parasites cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for most of these deaths. For the past 50 years, the main treatments for malaria have been drugs such as sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine and chloroquine. Unfortunately, parasitic resistance to these inexpensive "monotherapies" is now widespread and there has been an upsurge in the illness and death caused by P. falciparum. To combat this increase, the World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for first-line treatment of P. falciparum malaria in all regions with drug-resistant malaria. In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (new, fast-acting antimalarial drugs) are used in combination with another antimalarial to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite WHO's recommendation, ACT use in many developing countries remains low partly because of its high retail price. To increase the affordability of and access to ACT, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is planning to run an ACT subsidy mechanism called the “Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria” (AMF-m). Using money provided by various donors, the Global Fund aims to reduce the private sector retail costs of ACT to those of monotherapies by making "copayments" directly to ACT manufacturers. Phase I of the AMF-m is already being implemented in pilots in several countries, but there are few data on the likely impact of private sector ACT subsidies on the coverage of prompt, effective treatment at the community level. In this cluster randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate the impact of an intervention package that includes ACT subsidies on malaria treatment of young children in a high malaria transmission area of western Kenya. In a cluster randomized controlled trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive a test or control intervention, and the outcomes in different clusters are compared.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned 18 rural sublocations (the lowest administrative level in Kenya) to receive the intervention—the provision of subsidized packs of the ACT artemether-lumefantrine (AL) to retail outlets, retail staff training, and community awareness activities—or to act as controls. The researchers collected data about recent fever (a symptom of malaria) in children aged 3–59 months and its treatment with AL from randomly selected households in the intervention and control sublocations 4 months before and 8 months after roll-out of the intervention. At follow-up, 19.9% of children in the control arm received AL within 24 hours of fever developing compared to 5.3% of children at baseline (a 14.5% point rise). In the intervention arm, the percentage of children receiving AL within 24 hours of fever developing increased from 4.7% at baseline to 44.9% at follow-up (a 40.2% point rise). Moreover, the proportion of children receiving AL in the intervention arm was significantly greater than in the control arm (that is, unlikely to have happened by chance). Put another way, the intervention more than doubled the proportion of children with fever who received AL promptly.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in the rural areas of Kenya included in this study, the provision of subsidized ACT in the private retail sector can significantly increase the coverage of prompt and effective treatment of fever in children with ACT; the increase in ACT coverage in the control arm probably reflects improved availability of AL in public-health facilities. However, these findings may not be generalizable to other settings and, because the design of this trial and that of the planned AMF-m roll-out are somewhat different (through AMF-m, subsidized drugs will be available to all age groups, for example), these results must be used with caution when trying to predict the outcome of AMF-m. Most importantly, the tested intervention only achieved prompt ACT uptake in 44.9% of children with fever, somewhat lower than the target of 80% set by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. Thus, although the provision of subsidized ACTs is likely to improve ACT coverage, additional strategies to increase the prompt use of ACT need to be identified.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000437.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2010 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria including fact sheets about ACT and about malaria in Kenya, and information on AMF-m
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international financing institution that invests the world's money to save lives, also has information on fighting malaria and on the AMF-m (in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000437
PMCID: PMC3104978  PMID: 21655317
17.  Multidrug-Resistant Plasmodium vivax Associated with Severe and Fatal Malaria: A Prospective Study in Papua, Indonesia 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e128.
Background
Multidrug-resistant Plasmodium vivax (Pv) is widespread in eastern Indonesia, and emerging elsewhere in Asia-Pacific and South America, but is generally regarded as a benign disease. The aim of the study was to review the spectrum of disease associated with malaria due to Pv and P. falciparum (Pf) in patients presenting to a hospital in Timika, southern Papua, Indonesia.
Methods and Findings
Data were prospectively collected from all patients attending the outpatient and inpatient departments of the only hospital in the region using systematic data forms and hospital computerised records. Between January 2004 and December 2007, clinical malaria was present in 16% (60,226/373,450) of hospital outpatients and 32% (12,171/37,800) of inpatients. Among patients admitted with slide-confirmed malaria, 64% of patients had Pf, 24% Pv, and 10.5% mixed infections. The proportion of malarial admissions attributable to Pv rose to 47% (415/887) in children under 1 y of age. Severe disease was present in 2,634 (22%) inpatients with malaria, with the risk greater among Pv (23% [675/2,937]) infections compared to Pf (20% [1,570/7,817]; odds ratio [OR] = 1.19 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08–1.32], p = 0.001), and greatest in patients with mixed infections (31% [389/1,273]); overall p < 0.0001. Severe anaemia (haemoglobin < 5 g/dl) was the major complication associated with Pv, accounting for 87% (589/675) of severe disease compared to 73% (1,144/1,570) of severe manifestations with Pf (p < 0.001). Pure Pv infection was also present in 78 patients with respiratory distress and 42 patients with coma. In total 242 (2.0%) patients with malaria died during admission: 2.2% (167/7,722) with Pf, 1.6% (46/2,916) with Pv, and 2.3% (29/1260) with mixed infections (p = 0.126).
Conclusions
In this region with established high-grade chloroquine resistance to both Pv and Pf, Pv is associated with severe and fatal malaria particularly in young children. The epidemiology of P. vivax needs to be re-examined elsewhere where chloroquine resistance is increasing.
Ric Price and colleagues present data from southern Papua, Indonesia, suggesting that malaria resulting from infection withPlasmodium vivax is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria, a parasitic disease transmitted to people by mosquitoes, is common throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, infections with Plasmodium falciparum cause most of the malaria-associated illness and death. Elsewhere, another related parasite—P. vivax—is often the commonest cause of malaria. Both parasites are injected into the human blood stream when an infected mosquito bites a person. From there, the parasites travel to the liver, where they multiply for 8–9 d and mature into a form of the parasite known as merozoites. These merozoites are released from the liver and invade red blood cells where they multiply rapidly for a couple of days before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells. This cyclical accumulation of parasites in the blood causes a recurring flu-like illness characterized by fevers, headaches, chills, and sweating. Malaria can be treated with antimalarial drugs but, if left untreated, infections with P. falciparum can cause anemia (by destroying red blood cells) and can damage the brain and other vital organs (by blocking the capillaries that supply these organs with blood), complications that can be fatal.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unlike falciparum malaria, vivax malaria is generally regarded as a benign or nonfatal disease even though there have been several reports recently of severe disease and deaths associated with vivax malaria. These reports do not indicate, however, whether P. vivax is responsible for a significant proportion of malarial deaths. Public health officials need to know this information because strains of P. vivax that are resistant to multiple antimalarial drugs are widespread in Indonesia and beginning to emerge elsewhere in Asia and South America. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the relative burden of vivax and falciparum malaria in Papua, Indonesia, a region where multidrug-resistant strains of both P. falciparum and P. vivax are common.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined data collected from all the patients attending the outpatient and inpatient departments of a hospital that serves a large area in the southern lowlands of Papua, Indonesia between January 2004 and December 2007. Among those inpatients in whom malaria had been confirmed by finding parasites in blood samples, two-thirds were infected with P. falciparum, a quarter with P. vivax, and the rest with a mixture of parasites. Nearly one in four patients infected with P. vivax developed severe malaria compared with roughly one in five patients infected with P. falciparum. However, about one in three patients infected with both parasites developed severe disease. Whichever parasite was responsible for the infection, the proportion of patients with severe disease was greatest among children below the age of five years. Severe anemia was the commonest complication associated with severe malaria caused by both P. vivax and P. falciparum (present in 87% and 73% of cases, respectively). Finally, one in 50 patients with malaria died; the risk of death was the same for patients infected with P. falciparum, P. vivax, or both parasites.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide important information about the burden of malaria associated with P. vivax infection. They show that in a region where multidrug-resistant strains of both P. falciparum and P. vivax are common, P. vivax infection (as well as P. falciparum infection) is associated with severe and fatal malaria, particularly in young children. The findings also show that infection with a mixture of the two parasites is associated with a higher risk of severe disease than infection with either parasite alone. Most importantly, they show that similar proportions of patients infected with P. falciparum, P. vivax, or a mixture of parasites die. Further studies need to be done in other settings to confirm these findings and to learn more about the pattern of severe malaria associated with P. vivax (in particular, with multidrug-resistant strains). Nevertheless, these findings highlight the need to consider both P. vivax and P. falciparum when implementing measures designed to reduce the malaria burden in regions where these parasites coexist.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050128.
A PLoS Medicine Research in Translation article by Stephen Rogerson further discusses this study and a related PLoS Medicine paper on vivax malaria in a community cohort from Papua New Guinea
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Vivaxmalaria provides information on topics related to P. vivax
The Malaria Vaccine Initiative also provides a fact sheet on P. vivax malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050128
PMCID: PMC2429950  PMID: 18563962
18.  Intermittent Preventive Treatment for Malaria in Papua New Guinean Infants Exposed to Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(3):e1001195.
A three-arm randomized trial conducted among infants in Papua New Guinea estimates the preventive effect against malaria episodes of intermittent preventive treatment, in an area where children are exposed to both falciparum and vivax malaria.
Background
Intermittent preventive treatment in infants (IPTi) has been shown in randomized trials to reduce malaria-related morbidity in African infants living in areas of high Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) transmission. It remains unclear whether IPTi is an appropriate prevention strategy in non-African settings or those co-endemic for P. vivax (Pv).
Methods and Findings
In this study, 1,121 Papua New Guinean infants were enrolled into a three-arm placebo-controlled randomized trial and assigned to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) (25 mg/kg and 1.25 mg/kg) plus amodiaquine (AQ) (10 mg/kg, 3 d, n = 374), SP plus artesunate (AS) (4 mg/kg, 3 d, n = 374), or placebo (n = 373), given at 3, 6, 9 and 12 mo. Both participants and study teams were blinded to treatment allocation. The primary end point was protective efficacy (PE) against all episodes of clinical malaria from 3 to 15 mo of age. Analysis was by modified intention to treat. The PE (compared to placebo) against clinical malaria episodes (caused by all species) was 29% (95% CI, 10–43, p≤0.001) in children receiving SP-AQ and 12% (95% CI, −11 to 30, p = 0.12) in those receiving SP-AS. Efficacy was higher against Pf than Pv. In the SP-AQ group, Pf incidence was 35% (95% CI, 9–54, p = 0.012) and Pv incidence was 23% (95% CI, 0–41, p = 0.048) lower than in the placebo group. IPTi with SP-AS protected only against Pf episodes (PE = 31%, 95% CI, 4–51, p = 0.027), not against Pv episodes (PE = 6%, 95% CI, −24 to 26, p = 0.759). Number of observed adverse events/serious adverse events did not differ between treatment arms (p>0.55). None of the serious adverse events were thought to be treatment-related, and the vomiting rate was low in both treatment groups (1.4%–2.0%). No rebound in malaria morbidity was observed for 6 mo following the intervention.
Conclusions
IPTi using a long half-life drug combination is efficacious for the prevention of malaria and anemia in infants living in a region highly endemic for both Pf and Pv.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00285662
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a major global public health problem. Half the world's population is at risk of this parasitic disease, which kills about one million people (mainly young children in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Most of these deaths are caused by Plasmodium falciparum but P. vivax, the commonest and most widely distributed malaria parasite, is a major cause of malaria-related morbidity (illness and death) in many of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world where malaria is endemic (always present). Malaria is transmitted to people through the bites of night-flying mosquitoes. It can be prevented by controlling the mosquitoes that spread the parasite and by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets to avoid mosquito bites. Prompt treatment of malaria with antimalarial drugs can also reduce malaria transmission. In addition, intermittent preventative treatment (IPT)—the treatment of symptom-free individuals with full therapeutic courses of antimalarial drugs at fixed intervals regardless of their infection status—has been shown to reduce malaria-related morbidity among pregnant women in malaria-endemic areas and among African infants living in areas of high P. falciparum transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization recently recommended that, in Africa, IPT should be given during infancy (called IPTi) at the same time as routine immunizations. Because the studies on which this recommendation is based were all carried out in sub-Saharan Africa, in populations where P. falciparum is the predominant parasite and P. vivax is uncommon, it is not known whether IPTi would be an appropriate prevention strategy in non-African settings or in regions where both P. falciparum and P. vivax are endemic. In this randomized placebo-controlled trial, the researchers investigate the efficacy of IPTi in infants living in an area of Papua New Guinea where P. falciparum and P. vivax are both highly endemic. In a randomized placebo-controlled trial, the effects of an intervention and of a placebo (dummy) intervention are compared in groups of individuals chosen through the play of chance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assigned more than 1,000 infants to receive sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (SP) plus amodiaquine (AQ) (SP and AQ are long-lasting antimalarial drugs), SP plus artesunate (AS) (AS is a short-lasting antimalarial), or placebo at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months old. They recorded the number of malaria episodes that occurred among the children between the ages of 3 and 15 months. Then, by comparing the number of episodes occurring among the children receiving SP-AS or SP-AQ with the number occurring among the children receiving placebo, the researchers calculated the protective efficacy of the two drug combinations over the study period. The protective efficacy of IPTi against all clinical malaria episodes (P. falciparum and P. vivax combined) was 29% for SP-AQ, but SP-AS was not associated with a statistically significant reduction in all malaria episodes as compared to placebo. For the two species of malaria separately, the incidence of P. falciparum malaria was 35% lower among the children receiving SP-AQ than among the children receiving placebo, whereas the incidence of P. vivax was reduced by 23%; IPTi with SP-AS provided protection only against P. falciparum malaria (protective efficacy 31%). Importantly, the number of adverse events (possible drug side effects) was similar in all the treatment arms, none of the severe adverse events were treatment-related, and there was no rebound in malaria-related morbidity for six months following the end of the intervention.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that IPTi using a combination of long-lasting antimalarial drugs (SP-AQ) can effectively and safely prevent malaria in a non-African population living in a region where P. falciparum and P. vivax are both highly endemic. Importantly, they also show that IPTi with SP-AQ can prevent both P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria. For Papua New Guinea, these findings suggest that SP-AQ is an appropriate drug choice for IPTi, particularly since the replacement of SP-AQ by artemether-lumefantrine as the national first line treatment for malaria will reduce the selection pressure for resistance against SP and AQ. However, although these finding provide proof-of-principle evidence for the efficacy and safety of IPTi, further studies are needed to identify the most effective combinations of long-lasting antimalarial drugs for use in IPTi in other malaria-endemic regions.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001195.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2011 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation; and the WHO policy recommendation on IPTi for P. falciparum malaria control in Africa is available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria, including a fact sheet about malaria in children and information on malaria in Papua New Guinea
The IPTi Consortium was established to evaluate IPTi and inform public health policy making
The Malaria Vaccine Initiative has a fact sheet on P. vivax malaria
Vivaxmalaria.com provides information about P. vivax
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001195
PMCID: PMC3313928  PMID: 22479155
19.  Estimating the Global Clinical Burden of Plasmodium falciparum Malaria in 2007 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(6):e1000290.
Simon Hay and colleagues derive contemporary estimates of the global clinical burden of Plasmodium falciparum malaria (the deadliest form of malaria) using cartography-based techniques.
Background
The epidemiology of malaria makes surveillance-based methods of estimating its disease burden problematic. Cartographic approaches have provided alternative malaria burden estimates, but there remains widespread misunderstanding about their derivation and fidelity. The aims of this study are to present a new cartographic technique and its application for deriving global clinical burden estimates of Plasmodium falciparum malaria for 2007, and to compare these estimates and their likely precision with those derived under existing surveillance-based approaches.
Methods and Findings
In seven of the 87 countries endemic for P. falciparum malaria, the health reporting infrastructure was deemed sufficiently rigorous for case reports to be used verbatim. In the remaining countries, the mapped extent of unstable and stable P. falciparum malaria transmission was first determined. Estimates of the plausible incidence range of clinical cases were then calculated within the spatial limits of unstable transmission. A modelled relationship between clinical incidence and prevalence was used, together with new maps of P. falciparum malaria endemicity, to estimate incidence in areas of stable transmission, and geostatistical joint simulation was used to quantify uncertainty in these estimates at national, regional, and global scales.
Combining these estimates for all areas of transmission risk resulted in 451 million (95% credible interval 349–552 million) clinical cases of P. falciparum malaria in 2007. Almost all of this burden of morbidity occurred in areas of stable transmission. More than half of all estimated P. falciparum clinical cases and associated uncertainty occurred in India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Myanmar (Burma), where 1.405 billion people are at risk.
Recent surveillance-based methods of burden estimation were then reviewed and discrepancies in national estimates explored. When these cartographically derived national estimates were ranked according to their relative uncertainty and replaced by surveillance-based estimates in the least certain half, 98% of the global clinical burden continued to be estimated by cartographic techniques.
Conclusions and Significance
Cartographic approaches to burden estimation provide a globally consistent measure of malaria morbidity of known fidelity, and they represent the only plausible method in those malaria-endemic countries with nonfunctional national surveillance. Unacceptable uncertainty in the clinical burden of malaria in only four countries confounds our ability to evaluate needs and monitor progress toward international targets for malaria control at the global scale. National prevalence surveys in each nation would reduce this uncertainty profoundly. Opportunities for further reducing uncertainty in clinical burden estimates by hybridizing alternative burden estimation procedures are also evaluated.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a major global public-health problem. Nearly half the world's population is at risk of malaria, and Plasmodium falciparum malaria—the deadliest form of the disease—causes about one million deaths each year. Malaria is a parasitic disease that is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. These insects inject a parasitic form known as sporozoites into people, where they replicate briefly inside liver cells. The liver cells then release merozoites (another parasitic form), which invade red blood cells. Here, the merozoites replicate rapidly before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells. This increase in the parasitic burden causes malaria's characteristic symptoms—debilitating and recurring fevers and chills. Infected red blood cells also release gametocytes, which infect mosquitoes when they take a blood meal. In the mosquito, the gametocytes multiply and develop into sporozoites, thus completing the parasite's life cycle. Malaria can be prevented by controlling the mosquitoes that spread the parasite and by avoiding mosquito bites. Effective treatment with antimalarial drugs also helps to reduce malaria transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) and several other international agencies launched Roll Back Malaria, a global partnership that aims to provide a coordinated, global approach to fighting malaria. For this or any other malaria control initiative to be effective, however, an accurate picture of the global clinical burden of malaria (how many people become ill because of malaria and where they live) is needed so that resources can be concentrated where they will have the most impact. Estimates of the global burden of many infectious diseases are obtained using data collected by national surveillance systems. Unfortunately, this approach does not work very well for malaria because in places where malaria is endemic (always present), diagnosis is often inaccurate and national reporting is incomplete. In this study, therefore, the researchers use an alternative, “cartographic” method for estimating the global clinical burden of P. falciparum malaria.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified seven P. falciparum malaria-endemic countries that had sufficiently reliable health information systems to determine the national clinical malaria burden in 2007 directly. They divided the other 80 malaria endemic countries into countries with a low risk of transmission (unstable transmission) and countries with a moderate or high risk of transmission (stable transmission). In countries with unstable transmission, the researchers assumed a uniform annual clinical incidence rate of 0.1 cases per 1,000 people and multiplied this by population sizes to get disease burden estimates. In countries with stable transmission, they used a modeled relationship between clinical incidence (number of new cases in a population per year) and prevalence (the proportion of a population infected with malaria parasites) and a global malaria endemicity map (a map that indicates the risk of malaria infection in different countries) to estimate malaria incidences. Finally, they used a technique called “joint simulation” to quantify the uncertainty in these estimates. Together, these disease burden estimates gave an estimated global burden of 451 million clinical cases of P. falciparum in 2007. Most of these cases occurred in areas of stable transmission and more than half occurred in India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Myanmar. Importantly, these four nations alone contributed nearly half of the uncertainty in the global incidence estimates.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are extremely valuable because they provide a global map of malaria cases that should facilitate the implementation and evaluation of malaria control programs. However, the estimate of the global clinical burden of P. falciparum malaria reported here is higher than the WHO estimate of 247 million cases each year that was obtained using surveillance-based methods. The discrepancy between the estimates obtained using the cartographic and the surveillance-based approach is particularly marked for India. The researchers discuss possible reasons for these discrepancies and suggest improvements that could be made to both methods to increase the validity and precision of estimates. Finally, they note that improvements in the national prevalence surveys in India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Myanmar would greatly reduce the uncertainty associated with their estimate of the global clinical burden of malaria, an observation that should encourage efforts to improve malaria surveillance in these countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000261.
A PLoS Medicine Health in Action article by Hay and colleagues, a Research Article by Guerra and colleagues, and a Research Article by Hay and colleagues provide further details about the global mapping of malaria risk
Additional national and regional level maps and more information on the global mapping of malaria are available at the Malaria Atlas Project
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to the global control of malaria (in English and French)
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000290
PMCID: PMC2885984  PMID: 20563310
20.  Estimating the Number of Paediatric Fevers Associated with Malaria Infection Presenting to Africa's Public Health Sector in 2007 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(7):e1000301.
Peter Gething and colleagues compute the number of fevers likely to present to public health facilities in Africa and the estimated number of these fevers likely to be infected with Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites.
Background
As international efforts to increase the coverage of artemisinin-based combination therapy in public health sectors gather pace, concerns have been raised regarding their continued indiscriminate presumptive use for treating all childhood fevers. The availability of rapid-diagnostic tests to support practical and reliable parasitological diagnosis provides an opportunity to improve the rational treatment of febrile children across Africa. However, the cost effectiveness of diagnosis-based treatment polices will depend on the presumed numbers of fevers harbouring infection. Here we compute the number of fevers likely to present to public health facilities in Africa and the estimated number of these fevers likely to be infected with Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites.
Methods and Findings
We assembled first administrative-unit level data on paediatric fever prevalence, treatment-seeking rates, and child populations. These data were combined in a geographical information system model that also incorporated an adjustment procedure for urban versus rural areas to produce spatially distributed estimates of fever burden amongst African children and the subset likely to present to public sector clinics. A second data assembly was used to estimate plausible ranges for the proportion of paediatric fevers seen at clinics positive for P. falciparum in different endemicity settings. We estimated that, of the 656 million fevers in African 0–4 y olds in 2007, 182 million (28%) were likely to have sought treatment in a public sector clinic of which 78 million (43%) were likely to have been infected with P. falciparum (range 60–103 million).
Conclusions
Spatial estimates of childhood fevers and care-seeking rates can be combined with a relational risk model of infection prevalence in the community to estimate the degree of parasitemia in those fevers reaching public health facilities. This quantification provides an important baseline comparison of malarial and nonmalarial fevers in different endemicity settings that can contribute to ongoing scientific and policy debates about optimum clinical and financial strategies for the introduction of new diagnostics. These models are made publicly available with the publication of this paper.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria —an infectious parasitic disease transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito —kills about one million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Although several parasites cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for most of these deaths. For the past 50 years, the main treatments for P. falciparum malaria have been chloroquine and sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. Unfortunately, parasitic resistance to these “monotherapies” is now widespread and there has been a global upsurge in the illness and deaths caused by P. falciparum. To combat this increase, the World Health Organization recommends artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) for P. falciparum malaria in all regions with drug-resistant malaria. In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (new, fast-acting antimalarial drugs) are used in combination with another antimalarial to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
All African countries at risk of P. falciparum have now adopted ACT as first-line therapy for malaria in their public clinics. However, experts are concerned that ACT is often given to children who don't actually have malaria because, in many parts of Africa, health care workers assume that all childhood fevers are malaria. This practice, which became established when diagnostic facilities for malaria were very limited, increases the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to ACT, wastes limited drug stocks, and means that many ill children are treated inappropriately. Recently, however, rapid diagnostic tests for malaria have been developed and there have been calls to expand their use to improve the rational treatment of African children with fever. Before such an expansion is initiated, it is important to know how many African children develop fever each year, how many of these ill children attend public clinics, and what proportion of them is likely to have malaria. Unfortunately, this type of information is incompletely or unreliably collected in many parts of Africa. In this study, therefore, the researchers use a mathematical model to estimate the number of childhood fevers associated with malaria infection that presented to Africa's public clinics in 2007 from survey data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used survey data on the prevalence (the proportion of a population with a specific disease) of childhood fever and on treatment-seeking behavior and data on child populations to map the distribution of fever among African children and the likelihood of these children attending public clinics for treatment. They then used a recent map of the distribution of P. falciparum infection risk to estimate what proportion of children with fever who attended clinics were likely to have had malaria in different parts of Africa. In 2007, the researchers estimate, 656 million cases of fever occurred in 0–4-year-old African children, 182 million were likely to have sought treatment in a public clinic, and 78 million (just under half of the cases that attended a clinic with fever) were likely to have been infected with P. falciparum. Importantly, there were marked geographical differences in the likelihood of children with fever presenting at public clinics being infected with P. falciparum. So, for example, whereas nearly 60% of the children attending public clinics with fever in Burkino Faso were likely to have had malaria, only 15% of similar children in Kenya were likely to have had this disease.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical models, the accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions included in the model and on the data fed into it. Nevertheless, these findings provide a map of the prevalence of malarial and nonmalarial childhood fevers across sub-Saharan Africa and an indication of how many of the children with fever reaching public clinics are likely to have malaria and would therefore benefit from ACT. The finding that in some countries more than 80% of children attending public clinics with fever probably don't have malaria highlights the potential benefits of introducing rapid diagnostic testing for malaria. Furthermore, these findings can now be used to quantify the resources needed for and the potential clinical benefits of different policies for the introduction of rapid diagnostic testing for malaria across Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000301.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on rapid diagnostic tests for malaria
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information on the global mapping of malaria is available at the Malaria Atlas Project
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria (in English and French) and on artemisinin combination therapy
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000301
PMCID: PMC2897768  PMID: 20625548
21.  Influence of Rapid Malaria Diagnostic Tests on Treatment and Health Outcome in Fever Patients, Zanzibar—A Crossover Validation Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(4):e1000070.
Anders Bjorkman and colleagues report results from a cross-over trial evaluating rapid diagnostic testing for malaria diagnosis in Zanzibar.
Background
The use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for Plasmodium falciparum malaria is being suggested to improve diagnostic efficiency in peripheral health care settings in Africa. Such improved diagnostics are critical to minimize overuse and thereby delay development of resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). Our objective was to study the influence of RDT-aided malaria diagnosis on drug prescriptions, health outcomes, and costs in primary health care settings.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cross-over validation clinical trial in four primary health care units in Zanzibar. Patients of all ages with reported fever in the previous 48 hours were eligible and allocated alternate weeks to RDT-aided malaria diagnosis or symptom-based clinical diagnosis (CD) alone. Follow-up was 14 days. ACT was to be prescribed to patients diagnosed with malaria in both groups. Statistical analyses with multilevel modelling were performed. A total of 1,887 patients were enrolled February through August 2005. RDT was associated with lower prescription rates of antimalarial treatment than CD alone, 361/1005 (36%) compared with 752/882 (85%) (odds ratio [OR] 0.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.03–0.05, p<0.001). Prescriptions of antibiotics were higher after RDT than CD alone, i.e., 372/1005 (37%) and 235/882 (27%) (OR 1.8, 95%CI 1.5–2.2, p<0.001), respectively. Reattendance due to perceived unsuccessful clinical cure was lower after RDT 25/1005 (2.5%), than CD alone 43/882 (4.9%) (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3–0.9, p = 0.005). Total average cost per patient was similar: USD 2.47 and 2.37 after RDT and CD alone, respectively.
Conclusions
RDTs resulted in improved adequate treatment and health outcomes without increased cost per patient. RDTs may represent a tool for improved management of patients with fever in peripheral health care settings.
Trial Registration
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00549003
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly one million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) die because of malaria, a subtropical and tropical parasitic disease. Although several parasites cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for most of these deaths. Indeed, infection with P. falciparum can be fatal within hours if left untreated. For the past 50 years, the main treatments for P. falciparum malaria have been chloroquine and sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. Unfortunately, parasitic resistance to both of these “monotherapies” is now widespread and the illness and death caused by P. falciparum in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere has been increasing. To combat this increase, the World Health Organization now recommends artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) for P. falciparum malaria in all regions with drug-resistant malaria. In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (new, fast-acting antimalarial drugs) are used in combination with another antimalarial to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
The chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to ACT should also be reduced by giving ACT only to people who definitely have malaria. Unfortunately, many people who do not have malaria are given ACT because symptom-based (clinical) diagnosis cannot always distinguish between patients whose fever is caused by malaria and those who have a different infection and who would, therefore, gain more benefit from other treatments. Microscopic detection of parasites in blood smears would greatly improve the accuracy of malaria diagnosis, but this test is rarely available in rural clinics in developing countries. Might the recently developed “rapid diagnostic tests” (RDTs) for P. falciparum provide an alternative way to improve malaria diagnosis and thus reduce the overuse of ACT? In this “cross-over trial,” the researchers investigate the effect of the routine use of an RDT for the diagnosis of malaria on ACT prescribing, health outcomes, and costs in four primary health-care clinics in Zanzibar (part of the United Republic of Tanzania), one of the first regions in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce ACT.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Each clinic used RDT-aided symptom-based clinical diagnosis of malaria (the RDT arm of the trial) and symptom-based clinical diagnosis (the CD arm) in alternate weeks to decide whether patients attending with fever had malaria. ACT was prescribed to everyone diagnosed with malaria; during RDT weeks only patients with positive RDT results were prescribed ACT. During the trial, 36% of the 1,005 patients in the RDT arm were prescribed ACT compared to 85% of the 882 patients in the CD arm. 37% and 27% of the RDT and CD arm patients, respectively, were prescribed antibiotics and fewer RDT-arm patients than CD-arm patients returned to the clinic because they still felt ill. The overall cost per patient was similar in both arms. The researchers also report that 23% of the antimalarial treatments given to patients in the RDT arm and 80% of those given to patients in the CD arm were given to people with no microscopically detectable parasites in their blood. Importantly, none of the 26 patients in the RDT group who had positive smears but who were not treated with antimalarial drugs because of a negative RDT result developed severe malaria.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the replacement of clinical diagnosis alone with RDT-aided diagnosis may reduce the number of people prescribed ACT who do not have malaria and may increase the number of patients given antibiotics for nonmalarial illnesses without increasing costs. However, while the health-care workers involved in this study only prescribed ACT to those patients in the RDT arm who had a positive RDT result (as stipulated in the trial protocol), evidence from other studies suggests that health-care workers often give antimalarials to patients with negative RDT results. Consequently, these findings may not be generalizable to other clinics. Nevertheless, it is reassuring that none of the patients who had malaria that was detected by blood smear but that was missed by RDT subsequently developed severe malaria. This finding, if replicated, might persuade health-care workers to trust RDT results rather than prescribing ACT to everyone with a fever “just in case.”
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000070.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Zeno Bisoffi and colleagues
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on rapid diagnostic tests for malaria. Their 2008 World Malaria Report includes information about global efforts to control malaria and the latest information on malaria in the United Republic of Tanzania
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to the global control of malaria and on artemisinin-based combination therapies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000070
PMCID: PMC2667629  PMID: 19399156
22.  Efficacy and Safety of the RTS,S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine during 18 Months after Vaccination: A Phase 3 Randomized, Controlled Trial in Children and Young Infants at 11 African Sites 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001685.
Mary Hamel and colleagues in the RTS,S Clinical Trials Partnership report updated safety and efficacy results from an ongoing Phase 3 trial, including calculations of vaccine impact (malaria cases prevented).
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
A malaria vaccine could be an important addition to current control strategies. We report the safety and vaccine efficacy (VE) of the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine during 18 mo following vaccination at 11 African sites with varying malaria transmission.
Methods and Findings
6,537 infants aged 6–12 wk and 8,923 children aged 5–17 mo were randomized to receive three doses of RTS,S/AS01 or comparator vaccine.
VE against clinical malaria in children during the 18 mo after vaccine dose 3 (per protocol) was 46% (95% CI 42% to 50%) (range 40% to 77%; VE, p<0.01 across all sites). VE during the 20 mo after vaccine dose 1 (intention to treat [ITT]) was 45% (95% CI 41% to 49%). VE against severe malaria, malaria hospitalization, and all-cause hospitalization was 34% (95% CI 15% to 48%), 41% (95% CI 30% to 50%), and 19% (95% CI 11% to 27%), respectively (ITT).
VE against clinical malaria in infants was 27% (95% CI 20% to 32%, per protocol; 27% [95% CI 21% to 33%], ITT), with no significant protection against severe malaria, malaria hospitalization, or all-cause hospitalization.
Post-vaccination anti-circumsporozoite antibody geometric mean titer varied from 348 to 787 EU/ml across sites in children and from 117 to 335 EU/ml in infants (per protocol).
VE waned over time in both age categories (Schoenfeld residuals p<0.001). The number of clinical and severe malaria cases averted per 1,000 children vaccinated ranged across sites from 37 to 2,365 and from −1 to 49, respectively; corresponding ranges among infants were −10 to 1,402 and −13 to 37, respectively (ITT). Meningitis was reported as a serious adverse event in 16/5,949 and 1/2,974 children and in 9/4,358 and 3/2,179 infants in the RTS,S/AS01 and control groups, respectively.
Conclusions
RTS,S/AS01 prevented many cases of clinical and severe malaria over the 18 mo after vaccine dose 3, with the highest impact in areas with the greatest malaria incidence. VE was higher in children than in infants, but even at modest levels of VE, the number of malaria cases averted was substantial. RTS,S/AS01 could be an important addition to current malaria control in Africa.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00866619
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than 200 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and more than 600,000 people, mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa, die from this parasitic disease. Malaria parasites are transmitted to people through the bites of infected night-flying mosquitoes and cause fever that needs to be treated promptly with anti-malarial drugs to prevent anemia (a reduction in red blood cell numbers) and life-threatening organ damage. Malaria transmission can be prevented by using long-lasting insecticides sprayed on the indoor walls of homes to kill the mosquitoes that spread the malaria parasite or by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets to avoid mosquito bites and further reduce mosquito numbers. Widespread use of these preventative measures, together with the introduction of artemisinin combination therapy (an effective anti-malarial treatment), has reduced the global burden of malaria by 45% in all age groups, and by 51% among young children, since 2000.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, the emergence of insecticide and drug resistance is threatening this advance in malaria control. Moreover, additional interventions—specifically, effective malaria vaccines—will be needed to eliminate malaria in the large areas of Africa where malaria transmission remains high. Currently, there is no licensed malaria vaccine, but RTS,S/AS01, the most advanced malaria vaccine candidate, is undergoing phase 3 clinical trials (the last stage of testing before licensing) in infants and children in seven African countries. The RTS,S Clinical Trials Partnership reported encouraging results on the efficacy and safety of RTS,S/AS01 during 12 months of follow-up in 2011 and 2012. Here, researchers report on the 18-month efficacy and safety of RTS,S/AS01. Vaccine efficacy (VE) is the reduction in the incidence of a disease (the number of new cases that occur in a population in a given period) among trial participants who receive the vaccine compared to the incidence among participants who do not receive the vaccine.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned 6,537 infants aged 6–12 weeks and 8,923 children aged 5–17 months to receive three doses of RTS,S/AS01 or a control vaccine. During 18 months of follow-up, there were 0.69 episodes of clinical malaria (a high temperature and parasites in the blood) per person-year among the children who received all the planned doses of RTS,S/AS01 (the “per protocol” population) and 1.17 episodes per person-year among the control children—a VE against clinical malaria in the per-protocol population of 46%. A similar VE was seen in an intention-to-treat analysis that included all the enrolled children, regardless of whether they received all of the planned vaccine doses; intention-to-treat analyses reflect the real-life situation—in which children sometimes miss vaccine doses—better than per-protocol analyses. In intention-to-treat analyses, the VE among children against severe malaria (fever, parasites in the blood, and symptoms such as anemia) and hospitalization for malaria was 34% and 41%, respectively. Among infants, the VE against clinical malaria was 27% in both per-protocol and intention-to-treat analyses; the vaccine showed no protection against severe malaria or hospitalization. In both infants and children, VE waned with time since vaccination. Across all the study sites, RTS,S/AS01 averted an average of 829 and 449 cases of clinical malaria per 1,000 children and infants vaccinated, respectively. Finally, the serious adverse event meningitis (inflammation of the tissues lining the brain and spinal cord) occurred more frequently in trial participants given RTS,S/AS01 than in those given the control vaccine, but the incidence of other serious adverse events was similar in both groups of participants.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings show that, during 18 months of follow-up, vaccination of children and young infants with RTS,S/AS01 prevented many cases of clinical and severe malaria and that the impact of vaccination was highest in regions with the highest incidence of malaria. They indicate, as in the earlier analysis, that the VE against clinical and severe malaria is higher in children than in young infants and suggest that protection wanes over time. Whether or not the vaccine played a causal role in the observed cases of meningitis cannot be determined from these results, and the occurrence of meningitis will be followed closely during the remainder of the trial. Other study limitations (for example, variations in the clinical characteristics of participants from one center to another) may also affect the accuracy of these findings and their interpretation. However, by showing that even a modest VE can avert a substantial number of malaria cases, these findings suggest that vaccination with RTS,S/AS01 could have a major public health impact in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001685.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on all aspects of malaria (in several languages), including malaria immunization; the World Malaria Report 2013 provides details of the current global malaria situation; the World Health Organization also provides information on its Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (in English and French)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on malaria, including a selection of personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on the Global Malaria Action Plan (in English and French); its website includes a fact sheet about malaria in Africa
The latest results from the phase 3 trial of RTS,S are available on the website of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, a global program of the international nonprofit organization PATH that aims to accelerate the development of malaria vaccines and ensure their availability and accessibility in the developing world
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria and on immunization (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001685
PMCID: PMC4114488  PMID: 25072396
23.  Cost-Effectiveness Study of Three Antimalarial Drug Combinations in Tanzania 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e373.
Background
As a result of rising levels of drug resistance to conventional monotherapy, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organisations have recommended that malaria endemic countries move to combination therapy, ideally with artemisinin-based combinations (ACTs). Cost is a major barrier to deployment. There is little evidence from field trials on the cost-effectiveness of these new combinations.
Methods and Findings
An economic evaluation of drug combinations was designed around a randomised effectiveness trial of combinations recommended by the WHO, used to treat Tanzanian children with non-severe slide-proven malaria. Drug combinations were: amodiaquine (AQ), AQ with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (AQ+SP), AQ with artesunate (AQ+AS), and artemether-lumefantrine (AL) in a six-dose regimen. Effectiveness was measured in terms of resource savings and cases of malaria averted (based on parasitological failure rates at days 14 and 28). All costs to providers and to patients and their families were estimated and uncertain variables were subjected to univariate sensitivity analysis. Incremental analysis comparing each combination to monotherapy (AQ) revealed that from a societal perspective AL was most cost-effective at day 14. At day 28 the difference between AL and AQ+AS was negligible; both resulted in a gross savings of approximately US$1.70 or a net saving of US$22.40 per case averted. Varying the accuracy of diagnosis and the subsistence wage rate used to value unpaid work had a significant effect on the number of cases averted and on programme costs, respectively, but this did not change the finding that AL and AQ+AS dominate monotherapy.
Conclusions
In an area of high drug resistance, there is evidence that AL and AQ+AS are the most cost-effective drugs despite being the most expensive, because they are significantly more effective than other options and therefore reduce the need for further treatment. This is not necessarily the case in parts of Africa where recrudescence following SP and AQ treatment (and their combination) is lower so that the relative advantage of ACTs is smaller, or where diagnostic services are not accurate and as a result much of the drug goes to those who do not have malaria.
A randomised effectiveness trial of antimalarial drug combinations used to treat Tanzanian children found artemether-lumefantrine to be the most cost-effective.
Editors' Summary
Background.
For many years, malaria was treated with a course of a single drug. This type of treatment made it easy for malaria parasites to become resistant to antimalarial drugs. This is a major factor contributing to the continuing high death rate from the disease. However, although parasites can easily adapt to resist one drug, adapting to combinations of two or three drugs is much harder. Scientists have therefore developed combinations of antimalarial drugs. One component of these combinations is artemisinin—derived from a Chinese shrub. However, these combination therapies are much more expensive than the older treatments.
The regions worst affected by malaria—Africa and Asia—are also the poorest. And, in these areas, where both individual and government resources are scarce, antimalarial treatments must be cost-effective as well as clinically effective.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most of the estimated 1 million to 3 million people worldwide killed by malaria every year are young children in sub-Saharan Africa. Growing drug resistance, poor prevention programs, and a frequent inability of patients to pay for treatment mean that effective therapy is desperately needed in this part of the world. However, because of differences in drug resistance between regions, a drug combination will not work everywhere. In addition, because of low annual incomes (the average in Tanzania is US$120), heavy subsidies will probably be required to ensure that combination treatments are widely used. With several healthcare problems competing for resources, policymakers are likely to subsidize only the most cost-effective treatments. The researchers wanted to provide policymakers with information on how different combinations of malaria drugs compare in terms of costs, health effects, and cost-effectiveness, so that they can decide which treatment is best for their region.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They compared three combinations that the World Health Organization recommends for countries when making the transition from single-drug therapy. The three combinations—amodiaquine (AQ) and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP); AQ and artesunate (AS); and artemether-lumefantrine (AL)—were used to treat Tanzanian children. The researchers wanted to find out how many cases of malaria each combination averted (which is also an indication of how much money it saved) and how much the treatment cost. They looked at costs and savings from the perspectives of both healthcare providers and patients.
Compared with no treatment, AL proved to be the most cost-effective; although it cost more for the provider (US$3.01 at day 28 of treatment) than the others, its effectiveness in getting rid of the parasite meant it would save the cost of future treatment. By day 28, AL had averted 382 cases of malaria compared with 279 for AQ+AS, 181 for AQ+SP, and 57 for AQ alone. Also, higher proportions of inaccurate diagnoses of malaria led to lower cost-effectiveness of treatments.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Despite being more expensive, newer drugs can be cost-effective where alternatives fail. Although AL was the most cost-effective in places (such as Tanzania) where the malaria parasites are highly resistant to SP and AQ, the picture is likely to change for other areas. In West Africa, for example, AQ resistance is lower, and AQ+SP and AQ+AS would probably be more cost-effective. And in areas where both these combinations are just as good as AL in preventing recurring disease, they would be more cost-effective than AL. However, since AQ and SP have been used singly for many years, the likelihood is that resistance to these drugs will continue to increase. Accurate diagnosis turns out to be very important for maintaining the cost-effectiveness of combination antimalarial therapies. This will be essential if they are to be incorporated as a sustainable part of local health policies. The researchers also point out that, depending on which perspective is taken (provider or patient), the cost-effectiveness of treatments differs, making it important to compare like with like.
Although investing in costly AL treatments and improving diagnostic capabilities will be a challenge for African governments that currently spend less than US$5 per person per year on healthcare, it will be necessary if they are to seriously tackle the malaria epidemic.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030373
The US enters for Disease Control and Prevention provides malaria information aimed at the general public, physicians, and health workers
The Wellcome Trust; also has malaria information for the general public and covers the science of malaria research, including a downloadable animation of the parasite's life cycle
Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) is a charity created to develop new antimalarial drugs through public-private partnerships
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030373
PMCID: PMC1592341  PMID: 17032059
24.  The Limits and Intensity of Plasmodium falciparum Transmission: Implications for Malaria Control and Elimination Worldwide  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e38.
Background
The efficient allocation of financial resources for malaria control using appropriate combinations of interventions requires accurate information on the geographic distribution of malaria risk. An evidence-based description of the global range of Plasmodium falciparum malaria and its endemicity has not been assembled in almost 40 y. This paper aims to define the global geographic distribution of P. falciparum malaria in 2007 and to provide a preliminary description of its transmission intensity within this range.
Methods and Findings
The global spatial distribution of P. falciparum malaria was generated using nationally reported case-incidence data, medical intelligence, and biological rules of transmission exclusion, using temperature and aridity limits informed by the bionomics of dominant Anopheles vector species. A total of 4,278 spatially unique cross-sectional survey estimates of P. falciparum parasite rates were assembled. Extractions from a population surface showed that 2.37 billion people lived in areas at any risk of P. falciparum transmission in 2007. Globally, almost 1 billion people lived under unstable, or extremely low, malaria risk. Almost all P. falciparum parasite rates above 50% were reported in Africa in a latitude band consistent with the distribution of Anopheles gambiae s.s. Conditions of low parasite prevalence were also common in Africa, however. Outside of Africa, P. falciparum malaria prevalence is largely hypoendemic (less than 10%), with the median below 5% in the areas surveyed.
Conclusions
This new map is a plausible representation of the current extent of P. falciparum risk and the most contemporary summary of the population at risk of P. falciparum malaria within these limits. For 1 billion people at risk of unstable malaria transmission, elimination is epidemiologically feasible, and large areas of Africa are more amenable to control than appreciated previously. The release of this information in the public domain will help focus future resources for P. falciparum malaria control and elimination.
Combining extensive surveillance and climate data, as well as biological characteristics of Anopheles mosquitoes, Robert Snow and colleagues create a global map of risk for P. falciparum malaria.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria is a parasitic disease that occurs in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. 500 million cases of malaria occur every year, and one million people, mostly children living in sub-Saharan Africa, die as a result. The parasite mainly responsible for these deaths—Plasmodium falciparum—is transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. These insects inject a life stage of the parasite called sporozoites, which invade and reproduce in human liver cells. After a few days, the liver cells release merozoites (another life stage of the parasite), which invade red blood cells. Here, they multiply before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells, causing fever and damaging vital organs. Infected red blood cells also release gametocytes, which infect mosquitoes when they take a human blood meal. In the mosquito, the gametocytes multiply and develop into sporozoites, thus completing the parasite's life cycle. Malaria can be treated with antimalarial drugs and can be prevented by controlling the mosquitoes that spread the parasite (for example, by using insecticides) and by avoiding mosquito bites (for example, by sleeping under a insecticide-treated bednet).
Why Was This Study Done?
Because malaria poses such a large global public-health burden, many national and international agencies give countries where malaria is endemic (always present) financial resources for malaria control and, where feasible, elimination. The efficient allocation of these resources requires accurate information on the geographical distribution of malaria risk, but it has been 40 years since a map of malaria risk was assembled. In this study, which is part of the Malaria Atlas Project, the researchers have generated a new global map to show where the risk of P. falciparum transmission is moderate or high (stable transmission areas where malaria is endemic) and areas where the risk of transmission is low (unstable transmission areas where sporadic outbreaks of malaria occur).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To construct their map of P. falciparum risk, the researchers collected nationally reported data on malaria cases each year and on the number of people infected in sampled communities. They also collected information about climatic conditions that affect the parasite's life cycle and consequently the likelihood of active transmission. For example, below a certain temperature, infected mosquitoes reach the end of their natural life span before the parasite has had time to turn into infectious sporozoites, which means that malaria transmission does not occur. By combining these different pieces of information with global population data, the researchers calculated that 2.37 billion people (about 35% of the world's population) live in areas where there is some risk of P. falciparum transmission, and that about 1 billion of these people live where there is a low but still present risk of malaria transmission. Furthermore, nearly all the regions where more than half of children carry P. falciparum parasites (a P. falciparum prevalence of more than 50%) are in Africa, although there are some African regions where few people are infected with P. falciparum. Outside Africa, the P. falciparum prevalence is generally below 5%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The accuracy of this new map of the spatial distribution of P. falciparum malaria risk depends on the assumptions made in its assembly and the accuracy of the data fed into it. Nevertheless, by providing a contemporary indication of global patterns of P. falciparum malaria risk, this new map should be a valuable resource for agencies that are trying to control and eliminate malaria. (A similar map for the more common but less deadly P. vivax malaria would also be useful, but has not yet been constructed because less information is available and its biology is more complex.) Importantly, the map provides an estimate of the number of people who are living in areas where malaria transmission is low, areas where it should, in princple, be possible to use existing interventions to eliminate the parasite. In addition, it identifies large regions of Africa where the parasite might be more amenable to control and, ultimately, elimination than previously thought. Finally, with regular updates, this map will make it possible to monitor the progress of malaria control and elimination efforts.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050038.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to the global control of malaria
More information is available on global mapping of malaria risk from the Malaria Atlas Project
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050038
PMCID: PMC2253602  PMID: 18303939
25.  Plasmodium vivax and Mixed Infections Are Associated with Severe Malaria in Children: A Prospective Cohort Study from Papua New Guinea  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e127.
Background
Severe malaria (SM) is classically associated with Plasmodium falciparum infection. Little information is available on the contribution of P. vivax to severe disease. There are some epidemiological indications that P. vivax or mixed infections protect against complications and deaths. A large morbidity surveillance conducted in an area where the four species coexist allowed us to estimate rates of SM among patients infected with one or several species.
Methods and Findings
This was a prospective cohort study conducted within the framework of the Malaria Vaccine Epidemiology and Evaluation Project. All presumptive malaria cases presenting at two rural health facilities over an 8-y period were investigated with history taking, clinical examination, and laboratory assessment. Case definition of SM was based on the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria adapted for the setting (i.e., clinical diagnosis of malaria associated with asexual blood stage parasitaemia and recent history of fits, or coma, or respiratory distress, or anaemia [haemoglobin < 5 g/dl]). Out of 17,201 presumptive malaria cases, 9,537 (55%) had a confirmed Plasmodium parasitaemia. Among those, 6.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] 5.7%–6.8%) fulfilled the case definition of SM, most of them in children <5 y. In this age group, the proportion of SM was 11.7% (10.4%–13.2%) for P. falciparum, 8.8% (7.1%–10.7%) for P. vivax, and 17.3% (11.7%–24.2%) for mixed P. falciparum and P. vivax infections. P. vivax SM presented more often with respiratory distress than did P. falciparum (60% versus 41%, p = 0.002), but less often with anaemia (19% versus 41%, p = 0.0001).
Conclusion
P. vivax monoinfections as well as mixed Plasmodium infections are associated with SM. There is no indication that mixed infections protected against SM. Interventions targeted toward P. falciparum only might be insufficient to eliminate the overall malaria burden, and especially severe disease, in areas where P. falciparum and P. vivax coexist.
In a study carried out in Papua New Guinea, Blaise Genton and colleagues show thatPlasmodium vivax is associated with severe malaria.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria is a parasitic infection that is transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes. Four different parasites cause malaria—Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. Of these, P. vivax is the commonest and most widely distributed, whereas P. falciparum causes the most deaths. All these parasites enter their human host when an infected mosquito takes a blood meal. They then migrate to the liver where they replicate without causing any symptoms. Eight to nine days later, mature parasites are released from the liver cells and invade red blood cells. Here, they multiply rapidly before bursting out and infecting more red blood cells. The recurring flu-like symptoms of malaria are caused by this cyclical increase in parasitemia (parasites in the blood) and should be treated promptly with antimalarial drugs to prevent the development of potentially fatal complications. Infections with P. falciparum in particular can cause anemia by destroying the red blood cells and can damage vital organs (including the brain) by blocking the capillaries that supply them with blood.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is generally believed that P. vivax malaria is rarely fatal. There is even some evidence that infection with P. vivax alone (monoinfection) or with other malaria parasites (mixed infection) provides protection against malarial complications. Recently, however, there have been reports of severe disease and deaths associated with infection by P. vivax alone. Most of these reports do not indicate what proportion of severe malaria cases are caused by P. vivax infections, but if P. vivax is responsible for a significant proportion of malarial deaths, efforts to prevent these deaths will need to target P. vivax as well as P. falciparum. In this study, therefore, the researchers estimate the proportion of cases of severe malaria among patients infected with one or several Plasmodium species in Papua New Guinea, a country where all four species coexist.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled everyone attending two rural health facilities in the Wosera subdistrict of Papua New Guinea over an eight-year period with symptoms indicative of malaria but without symptoms of any other disease (presumptive malaria cases) into their prospective cohort study. They asked each patient about their symptoms, did a standard physical examination, looked for parasites in their blood, and measured their hemoglobin levels to see whether they were anemic. Out of 17,201 presumptive malaria cases, 483 had severe malaria (defined as parasitemia plus a recent history of fits, coma, breathing problems, or anemia). Most of the patients with severe malaria were less than five years old—children have little immunity to Plasmodium parasites. In this age group, 11.7% of patients infected with P. falciparum, 8.8% of patients infected with P. vivax, and 17.3% of patients infected with both parasites had severe malaria. Patients with severe malaria caused by P. vivax presented with breathing difficulties more often than those infected with P. falciparum, whereas anemia was more common among patients with severe malaria caused by P. falciparum than by P. vivax.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers use these results and data on the numbers of infections with each parasite to calculate that, in this rural region of Papua New Guinea, P. vivax is responsible for one-fifth of severe malaria cases, P. falciparum is responsible for three-quarters of cases, and the rest involve mixed P. falciparum/P. vivax infections. Put another way, these findings suggest that about one in ten children under the age of five years infected with either P. vivax or P. falciparum may develop severe malaria. These findings provide no evidence, however, that mixed infections are protective. Because the diagnosis of severe malaria was not confirmed by outcome data (deaths or permanent disability), additional, more detailed studies are needed to confirm these results. Nevertheless, these findings (and those reported separately in a related article published at the same time in PLoS Medicine) suggest that a significant proportion of the illness associated with malaria may be caused by P. vivax infections. Thus, efforts to reduce or eliminate the malarial burden must target P. vivax as well as P. falciparum in regions where these species coexist.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050127.
A PLoSMedicine Research in Translation article by Stephen Rogerson further discusses this study and a related paper on vivax malaria infection in patients attending a regional hospital in Papua, Indonesia
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on global control of malaria and on malaria in Papua New Guinea
Vivaxmalaria provides information for the malaria research community on topics related to Plasmodiumvivax
The Malaria Vaccine Initiative also provides a fact sheet on Plasmodiumvivax malaria
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050127
PMCID: PMC2429951  PMID: 18563961

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