A previous study found that the malaria death rate among Southeast Asian adults treated with artesunate was 14 percent, compared with 23 percent for those treated with quinine. Following that study, the World Health Organization changed its guidelines to recommend artesunate for severe malaria in adults.
But this additional study was needed because it was thought the disease course could be different in African children.
"Artesunate should now become the treatment of choice for severe malaria for children and adults worldwide," the authors of the new study concluded.
"Malaria causes an estimated 800,000 deaths every year in African children. Severe malaria is often the most common admission diagnosis in febrile children, so a change in treatment policy from quinine to artesunate has the potential to save thousands of children's lives every year," White and colleagues stated in the news release.
"If 4 million African children with severe malaria every year were to receive prompt treatment with parenteral artesunate instead of quinine, and the benefits were similar to those recorded in this trial, then approximately 100,000 lives might be saved per year," they concluded.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about malaria.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Nov. 6, 2010
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