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The anti-oxidant drug N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been proposed as adjunctive treatment in severe falciparum malaria. However, this might inhibit the anti-malarial drug action of the artemisinins, which are thought to exert their parasitocidal action through oxidative damage. We studied the interaction between NAC and artesunate as well as quinine in an in vitro drug sensitivity assay. Combination with NAC reduced the parasitocidal effect of artesunate only within the first 6 h of incubation, whereas no interaction was observed with quinine. Pre-incubation of P. falciparum with NAC resulted in a similar inhibitory effect on the anti-malarial activity of artesunate, whereas no inhibition was observed when NAC was added 2 h after parasite exposure to artesunate. Assessment of parasite maturation inhibition by the standard Giemsa's staining was in accordance with the use of a vital staining. The results herein caution the use of adjunctive treatment for malaria infection. Combination of antagonistic drugs may lead to adverse effects.

Original publication




Journal article


Parasitol Int

Publication Date





221 - 226


Acetylcysteine, Animals, Antimalarials, Antioxidants, Artemisinins, Artesunate, Drug Interactions, Humans, Parasitic Sensitivity Tests, Plasmodium falciparum, Quinine, Sesquiterpenes