Published: January 15, 2018
Grigg MJ, William T, Barber BE, Rajahram GS, Menon J, Schimann E, Wilkes CS, Patel K, Chandna A, Price RN, Yeo TW, Anstey NM. Artemether-lumefantrine versus chloroquine for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium knowlesi malaria: an open-label randomized controlled trial (CAN KNOW). Clin Infect Dis 2018; 66 (2): 229-236. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix779.
Plasmodium knowlesi is reported increasingly across Southeast Asia and is the most common cause of malaria in Malaysia. No randomized trials have assessed the comparative efficacy of artemether-lumefantrine (AL) for knowlesi malaria.
A randomized controlled trial was conducted in 3 district hospitals in Sabah, Malaysia to compare the efficacy of AL against chloroquine (CQ) for uncomplicated knowlesi malaria. Participants were included if they weighed >10 kg, had a parasitemia count <20000/μL, and had a negative rapid diagnostic test result for Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein 2. Diagnosis was confirmed by means of polymerase chain reaction. Patients were block randomized to AL (total target dose, 12 mg/kg for artemether and 60 mg/kg for lumefantrine) or CQ (25 mg/kg). The primary outcome was parasite clearance at 24 hours in a modified intention-to-treat analysis.
From November 2014 to January 2016, a total of 123 patients (including 18 children) were enrolled. At 24 hours after treatment 76% of patients administered AL (95% confidence interval [CI], 63%–86%; 44 of 58) were aparasitemic, compared with 60% administered CQ (47%–72%; 39 of 65; risk ratio, 1.3 [95% CI, 1.0–1.6]; P = .06). Overall parasite clearance was shorter after AL than after CQ (median, 18 vs 24 hours, respectively; P = .02), with all patients aparasitemic by 48 hours. By day 42 there were no treatment failures. The risk of anemia during follow-up was similar between arms. Patients treated with AL would require lower bed occupancy than those treated with CQ (2414 vs 2800 days per 1000 patients; incidence rate ratio, 0.86 [95% CI, .82–.91]; P < .001). There were no serious adverse events.
AL is highly efficacious for treating uncomplicated knowlesi malaria; its excellent tolerability and rapid therapeutic response allow earlier hospital discharge, and support its use as a first-line artemisinin-combination treatment policy for all Plasmodium species in Malaysia.