SATURDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The death rate among children with severe malaria was nearly one-fourth lower when they received a new drug called artesunate than when they got the standard treatment of quinine, a new study shows.
The finding suggests that artesunate should replace quinine as the malaria treatment of choice for severe malaria worldwide, the researchers said.
Malaria, a disease that is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito, can quickly become life-threatening if left untreated, according to the World Health Organization.
The new study included 5,425 children with severe falciparum malaria -- the most dangerous of four types of malaria affecting humans -- in nine African countries. Of the children, 2,713 were treated with artesunate and 2,713 with quinine. There were 230 deaths (8.5 percent) in the artesunate group and 297 deaths (11 percent) in the quinine group, the study authors reported.
That means the risk of death was 22.5 percent lower for children who received artesunate. The investigators also found that side effects such as coma and convulsions were less frequent among those given artesunate.
The study authors, Nicholas White of Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, and colleagues from the AQUAMAT study group, also noted that while artesunate is more expensive to buy, quinine is more expensive to administer.
"A major factor restricting the deployment of artesunate has been unavailability of a product satisfying international good manufacturing standards. The most widely used product, assessed in this study, does not yet have this certification, which has prevented deployment in some countries. This barrier must be overcome speedily so that parenteral artesunate can be deployed in malaria-endemic areas to save lives," White's team wrote in a news release.
The study, which was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of The L
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