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BACKGROUND:Treatment for severe malaria must be prompt with effective parenteral antimalarial drugs for at least 24 h to achieve fast parasite clearance, and when the patient can tolerate oral therapy, treatment should be completed with effective artemisinin based combination therapy (ACT) for complete parasite clearance and to prevent recrudescence. We evaluated piperaquine concentration and malaria treatment outcomes among Ugandan children treated for severe malaria with intravenous artesunate (AS) or quinine (QN) plus dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP), in Tororo District Hospital in Eastern Uganda. METHODS:Capillary blood piperaquine concentration data were obtained from a randomized clinical trial whose objective was to evaluate parasite clearance, 42-day parasitological treatment outcomes and safety, following treatment of severe malaria with intravenous AS or QN, plus artemether-lumefantrine or DP among children in Tororo District Hospital, in Eastern Uganda. RESULTS:Piperaquine concentration data from 150 participants who received DP were analyzed. Participants with unadjusted treatment failure had lower median day 7 capillary piperaquine concentration than those with treatment success (34.7 (IQR) (17.9-49.1) vs 66.7 (IQR) (41.8-81.9), p < 0.001), and lower than the recommended day 7 cut off level of 57 ng/mL. There was no difference in median capillary piperaquine concentrations among participants with re-infection and recrudescence (35.3 (IQR) (17.9-55.2) vs 34.8 (IQR) (18.1-45.1), p = 0.847). The risk of treatment failure was two times higher among children with low (< 57 ng/mL) day 7 capillary piperaquine concentration (relative risk: 2.1 CI 1.4-3.1), p < 0.001) compared to children with high day 7 capillary piperaquine concentrations (> 57 ng/mL). CONCLUSION:Considering the low day 7 concentrations of piperaquine reported in the patients studied here, we suggest to adopt the recently recommended higher dose of DP in young children or a prolonged 5-day dosing in children living in malaria endemic areas who have suffered an initial episode of severe malaria in order to achieve adequate drug exposures for effective post-treatment prophylactic effects. TRIAL REGISTRATION:The study was registered with the Pan African Clinical Trial Registry (PACTR201110000321348). Registered 7th October 2011.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC infectious diseases

Publication Date





Department of Medicine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda.


Humans, Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria, Falciparum, Recurrence, Artemisinins, Quinine, Quinolines, Antimalarials, Treatment Outcome, Follow-Up Studies, Osmolar Concentration, Child, Preschool, Infant, Uganda, Female, Male, Administration, Intravenous, Artesunate