Department of Pharmacy, Division of Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics, Biomedical Centre, Uppsala University, Department of Parasitology and Entomology, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, Division of Infectious Diseases, Huddinge University Hospital, Department of Infectious Diseases, Danderyd Hospital, Kibah Designated District Hospital, Kibah Education Centre, Uppsala, Sweden
The clinical efficacy of oral and intravenous (iv) artesunate was compared in an open randomized trial in 50 male adult patients with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Kibaha, Tanzania. Oral artesunate treatment was started with 2 × 50 mg initially followed by 50 mg 12 hr later and then 50 mg twice a day for four days (total dose = 550 mg or 9.6 mg/kg). Intravenous artesunate administration began with 2 × 0.8 mg/kg initially followed by 0.8 mg/kg 12 hr later and then 0.8 mg/kg twice a day for four days (total dose = 8.8 mg/kg). The mean ± SD parasite clearance times (PCTs) were nearly identical at 23.4 ± 5.9 hr and 24.2 ± 7.2 hr after oral and iv administration, respectively. Mean ± SD fever subsidence times (FSTs) were also similar at 18.7 ± 8.3 hr and 21.0 ± 4.8 hr, respectively. All patients remained negative for P. falciparum for at least 14 days. Recrudescence/reinfection occurred between days 21 and 28 in five of 25 patients (20%) after oral treatment and in four of 25 patients (16%) after iv treatment. The mean erythrocyte count and hemoglobin concentration were slightly reduced after iv treatment but remained in the normal range. Otherwise, there was no change in blood biochemistry, hematology, and electrocardiograms monitored prior to and during the last dose. It is concluded that treatment with oral and iv artesunate was equally efficacious and well tolerated. A 24-hr in vitro susceptibility test of P. falciparum to artemisinin, chloroquine, and mefloquine was performed in samples from all patients. The three compounds exhibited 100% inhibition with the exception of three isolates, which showed chloroquine resistance. Parameter estimates of a sigmoid Emax model (drug concentration at which 50% of the growth inhibition occurs [EC50]), the sigmoidicity factor s and EC95 fitted to the growth inhibition data differed between compounds and isolates, indicating different sensitivity of P. falciparum isolates. There was no correlation between artemisinin and mefloquine EC50 values, while artemisinin and chloroquine EC50 values showed weak correlation (r2 = 0.223, P = 0.006). There was no correlation between parameters describing clinical outcome (the PCT, the time needed for reduction of the parasite density to 50% and 95% of the initial parasitemia, and the FST) and those describing in vitro susceptibility.