Comparing drug regimens for clearance of malaria parasites in asymptomatic adults using PCR in Kilifi County, Kenya: an open-label randomised controlled clinical trial (MalPaC)
Khaemba EN., Ogwang C., Kinyanjui S., Muindi JM., Koske JK., Kimani D., Ngoi J., Mwacharo J., Shangala J., Njuguna P., Mutinda D., Nyatichi E., Peshu J., Mutinda B., Ndungu FM., Farnert A., Bashraheil MM., Bejon P., Kapulu MC.
Background: To restrict trial endpoints to infections acquired after vaccination in Phase IIb trials of candidate malaria vaccines, participants are treated with anti-malarial drugs to clear existing infections. Anti-malarial drugs with a long half-life may inhibit the acquisition of new infections. This study evaluated the effects of three anti-malarial drug regimens on the clearance of existing infections and acquisition of new infections. Methods: An open-label randomised controlled trial (MalPaC) was conducted between November 2013 and February 2014. Ninety adults were randomised 1:1:1 to receive one of three treatments: atovaquone/proguanil and artesunate (AP+AS); artesunate (AS); or sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine, artesunate, and primaquine (SP+AS+PQ). Parasite monitoring was determined over 84-day follow-up by assessing Plasmodium falciparum positivity by 18s qPCR, live and sexual stage parasites by RT-PCR, and recrudescence of infections by msp2 genotyping. Results: At enrolment, parasite prevalence by qPCR was 44% (40/90, day 0), which fell to 10% (9/90, day 16), then rose to almost the initial rates by day 84 (39%, 35/90). Individuals treated with AS and SP+AS+PQ were more likely to have higher qPCR positive rates compared to participants treated with AP+AS in the immediate post-treatment phase (days 16-28) (OR=7.7 [95%CI 4.6-12.8] p<0.0005 and OR=4.2 [95%CI 2.6-6.8] p<0.0005, respectively). In the immediate post-treatment phase, qPCR positivity was less likely associated with evidence of live parasites and gametocytaemia. Prevalence of “old”, “new” or “undetectable” infections did not differ significantly over time or drug regimen. However, participants on the AP+AS drug regimen were less likely to have parasite infection recrudescence compared to participants treated with AS and SP+AS+PQ. Conclusion: Falciparum DNA remained detectable by PCR post-treatment with incomplete parasite clearance regardless of drug regimen. Though AP+AS drug regimen may also have partially suppressed the acquisition of new infections during post-treatment follow-up. Trial registration: Pan African Clinical Trials Registry, 22nd of August 2013, PACTR201309000625311.