Comparison of artemether and chloroquine for severe malaria in Gambian children.
White NJ., Waller D., Crawley J., Nosten F., Chapman D., Brewster D., Greenwood BM.
Artemether is an oil-soluble methyl ether of artemesinin (qinghaosu). It has been studied extensively in China, where it has been shown to be rapidly effective in severe falciparum malaria. Nearly all the patients studied previously were adults. We have investigated the efficacy of artemether in children with moderate or severe falciparum malaria. In the preliminary study of moderately severe malaria, 30 Gambian children were randomised in pairs to receive either intramuscular artemether (4 mg/kg loading dose followed by 2 mg/kg daily) or intramuscular chloroquine ('Nivaquine') 3.5 mg base/kg every 6 h. Both drugs were well tolerated and rapidly effective. The times to parasite clearance were significantly shorter in the artemether recipients (mean 36.7 [SD 11.3] vs 48.4 [16.8] h, p less than 0.05). 43 children with severe malaria were then randomised to receive intramuscular treatment with the same regimens of artemether (n = 21) or chloroquine (n = 22) as used in the preliminary study. 8 children (19%) died. There were no significant differences between the two groups in the clinical, haematological, biochemical, or parasitological measures of therapeutic response in survivors and there was no evidence of local or systemic toxicity. Despite similar parasite counts on admission, clearance times overall were longer in severe malaria than in moderate malaria. Artemether is a well tolerated and rapidly effective parenteral treatment for severe malaria in children, and would be especially valuable in areas with chloroquine-resistant P falciparum.