A Phase II pilot trial to evaluate safety and efficacy of ferroquine against early P. falciparum in an induced blood-stage malaria infection study

Published: September 13, 2016


McCarthy JS, Rückle T, Djeriou E, Cantalloube C, Ter-Minassian D, Baker M, O’Rourke P, Griffin P, Marquart L, Hooft van Huijsduijnen R, Möhrle JJ. A Phase II pilot trial to evaluate safety and efficacy of ferroquine against early P. falciparum in an induced blood-stage malaria infection study. Malar J. 2016; 15:469. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-016-1511-3



Ferroquine (SSR97193) is a candidate anti-malarial currently undergoing clinical trials for malaria. To better understand its pharmacokinetic (PK) and pharmacodynamic (PD) parameters the compound was tested in the experimentally induced blood stage malaria infection model in volunteers.


Male and non-pregnant female aged 18–50 years were screened for this phase II, controlled, single-centre clinical trial. Subjects were inoculated with ~1800 viable Plasmodium falciparum 3D7A-infected human erythrocytes, and treated with a single-dose of 800 mg ferroquine. Blood samples were taken at defined time-points to measure PK and PD parameters. The blood concentration of ferroquine and its active metabolite, SSR97213, were measured on dry blood spot samples by ultra-performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Parasitaemia and emergence of gametocytes were monitored by quantitative PCR. Safety was determined by recording adverse events and monitoring clinical laboratory assessments during the course of the study.


Eight subjects were enrolled into the study, inoculated with infected erythrocytes and treated with 800 mg ferroquine. Ferroquine was rapidly absorbed with maximal exposure after 4–8 and 4–12 h exposure for SSR97213. Non-compartmental PK analysis resulted in estimates for half-lives of 10.9 and 23.8 days for ferroquine and SSR97213, respectively. Parasite clearance as reported by parasite reduction ratio was 162.9 (95 % CI 141–188) corresponding to a parasite clearance half-life of 6.5 h (95 % CI: 6.4–6.7 h). PK/PD modelling resulted in a predicted minimal parasiticidal concentration of 20 ng/mL, and the single dosing tested in this study was predicted to maintain an exposure above this threshold for 454 h (37.8 days). Although ferroquine was overall well tolerated, transient elevated transaminase levels were observed in three subjects. Paracetamol was the only concomitant treatment among the two out of these three subjects that may have played a role in the elevated transaminases levels. No clinically significant ECG abnormalities were observed.


The parameters and PK/PD model derived from this study pave the way to the further rational development of ferroquine as an anti-malarial partner drug. The safety of ferroquine has to be further explored in controlled human trials.

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