Dr Mehul Dhorda

Research Area: Global Health
Scientific Themes: Tropical Medicine & Global Health and Clinical Trials & Epidemiology
Keywords: Malaria, Drug Resistance, Surveillance, Maps and Quality Assurance
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Dr Mehul Dhorda is the Head of the Asia Regional Centre of WWARN and is based at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok, Thailand. He works with his team at the Specimen Management Laboratory to support MORU-led projects by coordinating laboratory activities and quality assurance for study-related tests and assays. Of note are the UKAID-funded 'TRAC' study which tracked the spread of resistance of artemisinins and which has now been extended into the TRAC-II study aimed testing optimal drug combinations, including triple combinations, to treat multi-drug resistant malaria. Along with Dr. Joel Tarning of MORU, he also helps to manage WWARN's Reference Material and Pharmacology Proficiency Testing programmes. He has been involved in the conception, development and implementation of projects aimed at monitoring the spread or emergence of resistance to antimalarials through simple protocols which can be implemented even in the most resource-poor settings. These innovative projects aim to make the results of the surveillance freely available through open access maps in near-real time. He is also leading multi-centric field studies to test a digital microscopy device for malaria parasite detection and quantification.

There are no collaborations listed for this principal investigator.

Mukherjee A, Bopp S, Magistrado P, Wong W, Daniels R, Demas A, Schaffner S, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Dhorda M et al. 2017. Artemisinin resistance without pfkelch13 mutations in Plasmodium falciparum isolates from Cambodia. Malar J, 16 (1), pp. 195. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance is associated with delayed parasite clearance half-life in vivo and correlates with ring-stage survival under dihydroartemisinin in vitro. Both phenotypes are associated with mutations in the PF3D7_1343700 pfkelch13 gene. Recent spread of artemisinin resistance and emerging piperaquine resistance in Southeast Asia show that artemisinin combination therapy, such as dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine, are losing clinical effectiveness, prompting investigation of drug resistance mechanisms and development of strategies to surmount emerging anti-malarial resistance. METHODS: Sixty-eight parasites isolates with in vivo clearance data were obtained from two Tracking Resistance to Artemisinin Collaboration study sites in Cambodia, culture-adapted, and genotyped for pfkelch13 and other mutations including pfmdr1 copy number; and the RSA0-3h survival rates and response to antimalarial drugs in vitro were measured for 36 of these isolates. RESULTS: Among these 36 parasites one isolate demonstrated increased ring-stage survival for a PfKelch13 mutation (D584V, RSA0-3h = 8%), previously associated with slow clearance but not yet tested in vitro. Several parasites exhibited increased ring-stage survival, yet lack pfkelch13 mutations, and one isolate showed evidence for piperaquine resistance. CONCLUSIONS: This study of 68 culture-adapted Plasmodium falciparum clinical isolates from Cambodia with known clearance values, associated the D584V PfKelch13 mutation with increased ring-stage survival and identified parasites that lack pfkelch13 mutations yet exhibit increased ring-stage survival. These data suggest mutations other than those found in pfkelch13 may be involved in conferring artemisinin resistance in P. falciparum. Piperaquine resistance was also detected among the same Cambodian samples, consistent with reports of emerging piperaquine resistance in the field. These culture-adapted parasites permit further investigation of mechanisms of both artemisinin and piperaquine resistance and development of strategies to prevent or overcome anti-malarial resistance.

Imwong M, Suwannasin K, Kunasol C, Sutawong K, Mayxay M, Rekol H, Smithuis FM, Hlaing TM, Tun KM, van der Pluijm RW et al. 2017. The spread of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in the Greater Mekong subregion: a molecular epidemiology observational study. Lancet Infect Dis, 17 (5), pp. 491-497. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Evidence suggests that the PfKelch13 mutations that confer artemisinin resistance in falciparum malaria have multiple independent origins across the Greater Mekong subregion, which has motivated a regional malaria elimination agenda. We aimed to use molecular genotyping to assess antimalarial drug resistance selection and spread in the Greater Mekong subregion. METHODS: In this observational study, we tested Plasmodium falciparum isolates from Myanmar, northeastern Thailand, southern Laos, and western Cambodia for PfKelch13 mutations and for Pfplasmepsin2 gene amplification (indicating piperaquine resistance). We collected blood spots from patients with microscopy or rapid test confirmed uncomplicated falciparum malaria. We used microsatellite genotyping to assess genetic relatedness. FINDINGS: As part of studies on the epidemiology of artemisinin-resistant malaria between Jan 1, 2008, and Dec 31, 2015, we collected 434 isolates. In 2014-15, a single long PfKelch13 C580Y haplotype (-50 to +31·5 kb) lineage, which emerged in western Cambodia in 2008, was detected in 65 of 88 isolates from northeastern Thailand, 86 of 111 isolates from southern Laos, and 14 of 14 isolates from western Cambodia, signifying a hard transnational selective sweep. Pfplasmepsin2 amplification occurred only within this lineage, and by 2015 these closely related parasites were found in ten of the 14 isolates from Cambodia and 15 of 15 isolates from northeastern Thailand. C580Y mutated parasites from Myanmar had a different genetic origin. INTERPRETATION: Our results suggest that the dominant artemisinin-resistant P falciparum C580Y lineage probably arose in western Cambodia and then spread to Thailand and Laos, outcompeting other parasites and acquiring piperaquine resistance. The emergence and spread of fit artemisinin-resistant P falciparum parasite lineages, which then acquire partner drug resistance across the Greater Mekong subregion, threatens regional malaria control and elimination goals. Elimination of falciparum malaria from this region should be accelerated while available antimalarial drugs still remain effective. FUNDING: The Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ding XC, Ade MP, Baird JK, Cheng Q, Cunningham J, Dhorda M, Drakeley C, Felger I, Gamboa D, Harbers M et al. 2017. Defining the next generation of Plasmodium vivax diagnostic tests for control and elimination: Target product profiles. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 11 (4), pp. e0005516. | Show Abstract | Read more

The global prevalence of malaria has decreased over the past fifteen years, but similar gains have not been realized against Plasmodium vivax because this species is less responsive to conventional malaria control interventions aimed principally at P. falciparum. Approximately half of all malaria cases outside of Africa are caused by P. vivax. This species places dormant forms in human liver that cause repeated clinical attacks without involving another mosquito bite. The diagnosis of acute patent P. vivax malaria relies primarily on light microscopy. Specific rapid diagnostic tests exist but typically perform relatively poorly compared to those for P. falciparum. Better diagnostic tests are needed for P. vivax. To guide their development, FIND, in collaboration with P. vivax experts, identified the specific diagnostic needs associated with this species and defined a series of three distinct target product profiles, each aimed at a particular diagnostic application: (i) point-of-care of acutely ill patients for clinical care purposes; (ii) point-of-care asymptomatic and otherwise sub-patent residents for public health purposes, e.g., mass screen and treat campaigns; and (iii) ultra-sensitive not point-of-care diagnosis for epidemiological research/surveillance purposes. This report presents and discusses the rationale for these P. vivax-specific diagnostic target product profiles. These contribute to the rational development of fit-for-purpose diagnostic tests suitable for the clinical management, control and elimination of P. vivax malaria.

Ataide R, Ashley EA, Powell R, Chan J-A, Malloy MJ, O'Flaherty K, Takashima E, Langer C, Tsuboi T, Dondorp AM et al. 2017. Host immunity to Plasmodium falciparum and the assessment of emerging artemisinin resistance in a multinational cohort. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 114 (13), pp. 3515-3520. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin-resistant falciparum malaria, defined by a slow-clearance phenotype and the presence of kelch13 mutants, has emerged in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Naturally acquired immunity to malaria clears parasites independent of antimalarial drugs. We hypothesized that between- and within-population variations in host immunity influence parasite clearance after artemisinin treatment and the interpretation of emerging artemisinin resistance. Antibodies specific to 12 Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite and blood-stage antigens were determined in 959 patients (from 11 sites in Southeast Asia) participating in a multinational cohort study assessing parasite clearance half-life (PCt1/2) after artesunate treatment and kelch13 mutations. Linear mixed-effects modeling of pooled individual patient data assessed the association between antibody responses and PCt1/2.P. falciparum antibodies were lowest in areas where the prevalence of kelch13 mutations and slow PCt1/2 were highest [Spearman ρ = -0.90 (95% confidence interval, -0.97, -0.65), and Spearman ρ = -0.94 (95% confidence interval, -0.98, -0.77), respectively]. P. falciparum antibodies were associated with faster PCt1/2 (mean difference in PCt1/2 according to seropositivity, -0.16 to -0.65 h, depending on antigen); antibodies have a greater effect on the clearance of kelch13 mutant compared with wild-type parasites (mean difference in PCt1/2 according to seropositivity, -0.22 to -0.61 h faster in kelch13 mutants compared with wild-type parasites). Naturally acquired immunity accelerates the clearance of artemisinin-resistant parasites in patients with falciparum malaria and may confound the current working definition of artemisinin resistance. Immunity may also play an important role in the emergence and transmission potential of artemisinin-resistant parasites.

Tripura R, Peto TJ, Veugen CC, Nguon C, Davoeung C, James N, Dhorda M, Maude RJ, Duanguppama J, Patumrat K et al. 2017. Submicroscopic Plasmodium prevalence in relation to malaria incidence in 20 villages in western Cambodia. Malar J, 16 (1), pp. 56. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Cambodia has seen a marked reduction in the incidence of Plasmodium falciparum over the past decade without a corresponding decline in Plasmodium vivax incidence. It is unknown to what extent local transmission is sustained by a chain of clinical and sub-clinical infections or by continued re-introduction via migration. Using an ultrasensitive molecular technique, 20 villages in western Cambodia were surveyed to detect the low season prevalence of P. falciparum and P. vivax and local treatment records were reviewed. METHODS: During March to May 2015 cross-sectional surveys were conducted in 20 villages in Battambang, western Cambodia. Demographic and epidemiological data and venous blood samples were collected from 50 randomly selected adult volunteers in each village. Blood was tested for Plasmodium infections by rapid diagnostic test (RDT), microscopy and high volume (0.5 ml packed red blood cell) quantitative polymerase chain reaction (uPCR). Positive samples were analysed by nested PCR to determine the Plasmodium species. Malaria case records were collected from the Provincial Health Department and village malaria workers to determine incidence and migration status. RESULTS: Among the 1000 participants, 91 (9.1%) were positive for any Plasmodium infection by uPCR, seven (0.7%) by microscopy, and two (0.2%) by RDT. uPCR P. vivax prevalence was 6.6%, P. falciparum 0.7%, and undetermined Plasmodium species 1.8%. Being male (adjusted OR 2.0; 95% CI 1.2-3.4); being a young adult <30 years (aOR 2.1; 95% CI 1.3-3.4); recent forest travel (aOR 2.8; 95% CI 1.6-4.8); and, a history of malaria (aOR 5.2; 95% CI 2.5-10.7) were independent risk factors for parasitaemia. Of the clinical malaria cases diagnosed by village malaria workers, 43.9% (297/634) and 38.4% (201/523) were among migrants in 2013 and in 2014, respectively. Plasmodium vivax prevalence determined by uPCR significantly correlated with vivax malaria incidences in both 2014 and 2015 (p = 0.001 and 0.002, respectively), whereas no relationship was observed in falciparum malaria (p = 0.36 and p = 0.59, respectively). DISCUSSION: There was heterogeneity in the malaria parasite reservoir between villages, and Plasmodium prevalence correlated with subsequent malaria incidence. The association was attributable chiefly to P. vivax infections, which were nine-fold more prevalent than P. falciparum infections. In the absence of a radical cure with 8-aminoquinolines, P. vivax transmission will continue even as P. falciparum prevalence declines. Migration was associated with over a third of incident cases of clinical malaria. Trial registration clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01872702). Registered 4 June 2013.

Grist EPM, Flegg JA, Humphreys G, Mas IS, Anderson TJC, Ashley EA, Day NPJ, Dhorda M, Dondorp AM, Faiz MA et al. 2016. Optimal health and disease management using spatial uncertainty: a geographic characterization of emergent artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum distributions in Southeast Asia. Int J Health Geogr, 15 (1), pp. 37. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites are now present across much of mainland Southeast Asia, where ongoing surveys are measuring and mapping their spatial distribution. These efforts require substantial resources. Here we propose a generic 'smart surveillance' methodology to identify optimal candidate sites for future sampling and thus map the distribution of artemisinin resistance most efficiently. METHODS: The approach uses the 'uncertainty' map generated iteratively by a geostatistical model to determine optimal locations for subsequent sampling. RESULTS: The methodology is illustrated using recent data on the prevalence of the K13-propeller polymorphism (a genetic marker of artemisinin resistance) in the Greater Mekong Subregion. CONCLUSION: This methodology, which has broader application to geostatistical mapping in general, could improve the quality and efficiency of drug resistance mapping and thereby guide practical operations to eliminate malaria in affected areas.

Peto TJ, Kloprogge SE, Tripura R, Nguon C, Sanann N, Yok S, Heng C, Promnarate C, Chalk J, Song N et al. 2016. History of malaria treatment as a predictor of subsequent subclinical parasitaemia: a cross-sectional survey and malaria case records from three villages in Pailin, western Cambodia. Malar J, 15 (1), pp. 240. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Treatment of the sub-clinical reservoir of malaria, which may maintain transmission, could be an important component of elimination strategies. The reliable detection of asymptomatic infections with low levels of parasitaemia requires high-volume quantitative polymerase chain reaction (uPCR), which is impractical to conduct on a large scale. It is unknown to what extent sub-clinical parasitaemias originate from recent or older clinical episodes. This study explored the association between clinical history of malaria and subsequent sub-clinical parasitaemia. METHODS: In June 2013 a cross-sectional survey was conducted in three villages in Pailin, western Cambodia. Demographic and epidemiological data and blood samples were collected. Blood was tested for malaria by high-volume qPCR. Positive samples were analysed by nested PCR to determine the Plasmodium species. To identify previous episodes of malaria, case records were collected from village malaria workers and local health facilities and linked to study participants. RESULTS: Among 1343 participants, 40/122 (32.8 %) with a history of clinical malaria were parasitaemic during the cross-sectional survey, compared to 172/1221 (14.1 %) without this history (p < 0.001). Among the 212 parasitaemic participants in the survey, 40 (18.9 %) had a history of clinical malaria, compared to 87 out of 1131 (7.7 %) parasite-negative participants; p < 0.001, adjusted OR 3.3 (95 % CI; 2.1-5.1). A history of Plasmodium vivax was associated with sub-clinical P. vivax parasitaemia in the survey (p < 0.001), but this association was not seen with Plasmodium falciparum (p = 0.253); only three participants had both P. falciparum parasites in the survey and a clinical history of P. falciparum. CONCLUSIONS: A clinical episode of vivax malaria was associated with subsequent sub-clinical parasitaemia. Treatment of P. vivax with artemisinin-based combination therapy without primaquine often resulted in recurrent episodes. Targeting individuals with a history of clinical malaria will be insufficient to eliminate the sub-clinical reservoir as they constitute a minority of parasitaemias.

Lybbert J, Gullingsrud J, Chesnokov O, Turyakira E, Dhorda M, Guerin PJ, Piola P, Muehlenbachs A, Oleinikov AV. 2016. Abundance of megalin and Dab2 is reduced in syncytiotrophoblast during placental malaria, which may contribute to low birth weight. Sci Rep, 6 (1), pp. 24508. | Show Abstract | Read more

Placental malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum contributes to ~200,000 child deaths annually, mainly due to low birth weight (LBW). Parasitized erythrocyte sequestration and consequent inflammation in the placenta are common attributes of placental malaria. The precise molecular details of placental changes leading to LBW are still poorly understood. We hypothesized that placental malaria may disturb maternofetal exchange of vitamins, lipids, and hormones mediated by the multi-ligand (n ~ 50) scavenging/signaling receptor megalin, which is abundantly expressed in placenta but was not previously analyzed in pregnancy outcomes. We studied abundance of megalin and its intracellular adaptor protein Dab2 by immunofluorescence microscopy in placental biopsies from Ugandan women with (n = 8) and without (n = 20) active placental malaria. We found that: (a) abundances of both megalin (p = 0.01) and Dab2 (p = 0.006) were significantly reduced in brush border of syncytiotrophoblast of infected placentas; (b) amounts of megalin and Dab2 were strongly correlated (Spearman's r = 0.53, p = 0.003); (c) abundances of megalin and Dab2 (p = 0.046) were reduced in infected placentas from women with LBW deliveries. This study provides first evidence that placental malaria infection is associated with reduced abundance of megalin transport/signaling system and indicate that these changes may contribute to the pathology of LBW.

Imwong M, Stepniewska K, Tripura R, Peto TJ, Lwin KM, Vihokhern B, Wongsaen K, von Seidlein L, Dhorda M, Snounou G et al. 2016. Numerical Distributions of Parasite Densities During Asymptomatic Malaria. J Infect Dis, 213 (8), pp. 1322-1329. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Asymptomatic parasitemia is common even in areas of low seasonal malaria transmission, but the true proportion of the population infected has not been estimated previously because of the limited sensitivity of available detection methods. METHODS: Cross-sectional malaria surveys were conducted in areas of low seasonal transmission along the border between eastern Myanmar and northwestern Thailand and in western Cambodia. DNA was quantitated by an ultrasensitive polymerase chain reaction (uPCR) assay (limit of accurate detection, 22 parasites/mL) to characterize parasite density distributions for Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, and the proportions of undetected infections were imputed. RESULTS: The prevalence of asymptomatic malaria as determined by uPCR was 27.5% (1303 of 4740 people tested). Both P. vivax and P. falciparum density distributions were unimodal and log normal, with modal values well within the quantifiable range. The estimated proportions of all parasitemic individuals identified by uPCR were >70% among individuals infected with P. falciparum and >85% among those infected with P. vivax. Overall, 83% of infections were predicted to be P. vivax infections, 13% were predicted to be P. falciparum infections, and 4% were predicted to be mixed infections. Geometric mean parasite densities were similar; 5601 P. vivax parasites/mL and 5158 P. falciparum parasites/mL. CONCLUSIONS: This uPCR method identified most infected individuals in malaria-endemic areas. Malaria parasitemia persists in humans at levels that optimize the probability of generating transmissible gametocyte densities without causing illness.

Tun KM, Jeeyapant A, Imwong M, Thein M, Aung SSM, Hlaing TM, Yuentrakul P, Promnarate C, Dhorda M, Woodrow CJ et al. 2016. Parasite clearance rates in Upper Myanmar indicate a distinctive artemisinin resistance phenotype: a therapeutic efficacy study. Malar J, 15 (1), pp. 185. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum extends across Southeast Asia where it is associated with worsening partner drug resistance and a decline in the efficacy of frontline artemisinin-based combination therapy. Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) is an essential component of preventive and curative treatment in the region, but its therapeutic efficacy has fallen in Cambodia. METHODS: A prospective clinical and parasitological evaluation of DP was conducted at two sites in Upper Myanmar between August 2013 and December 2014, enrolling 116 patients with acute uncomplicated falciparum malaria. Patients received DP orally for 3 days together with primaquine 0.25 mg/kg on admission. Parasite clearance half-lives based on 6 hourly blood smears, and day 42 therapeutic responses were assessed as well as parasite K13 genotypes. RESULTS: Median parasite clearance half-life was prolonged, and clearance half-life was greater than 5 h in 21% of patients. Delayed parasite clearance was significantly associated with mutations in the propeller region of the parasite k13 gene. The k13 F446I mutation was found in 25.4% of infections and was associated with a median clearance half-life of 4.7 h compared with 2.7 h for infections without k13 mutations (p < 0.001). There were no failures after 42 days of follow-up, although 18% of patients had persistent parasitaemia on day 3. CONCLUSION: The dominant k13 mutation observed in Upper Myanmar, F446I, appears to be associated with an intermediate rate of parasite clearance compared to other common mutations described elsewhere in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Discerning this phenotype requires relatively detailed clearance measurements, highlighting the importance of methodology in assessing artemisinin resistance.

Peto TJ, Tripura R, Lee SJ, Althaus T, Dunachie S, Nguon C, Dhorda M, Promnarate C, Chalk J, Imwong M et al. 2016. Association between Subclinical Malaria Infection and Inflammatory Host Response in a Pre-Elimination Setting. PLoS One, 11 (7), pp. e0158656. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Subclinical infections in endemic areas of Southeast Asia sustain malaria transmission. These asymptomatic infections might sustain immunity against clinical malaria and have been considered benign for the host, but if they are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation this could be harmful. We conducted a case-control study to explore the association between subclinical malaria and C-reactive protein (CRP), an established biomarker of inflammation. METHODS: Blood samples from asymptomatic villagers in Pailin, Western Cambodia were tested for malaria by high-volume ultra-sensitive polymerase chain reaction (uPCR) to determine the Plasmodium species. Plasma CRP concentration was measured in 328 individuals with parasitaemia (cases) and compared with: i) the same individual's value at the first time point when they had no detectable parasites (n = 282); and ii) age- sex- and village-matched controls (n = 328) free of Plasmodium infection. Plasma CRP concentrations were compared against thresholds of 3mg/L and 10mg/L. Subgroup analysis was carried out for cases with P vivax and P falciparum mono-infections. RESULTS: Median plasma CRP level for all samples was 0.59mg/L (interquartile range: 0.24-1.64mg/L). CRP concentrations were higher in parasitaemic individuals compared with same-person-controls (p = 0.050); and matched-controls (p = 0.025). 4.9% of samples had CRP concentrations above 10mg/L and 14.6% were above 3mg/L. Cases were more likely to have plasma CRP concentrations above these thresholds than age/sex matched controls, odds ratio 3.5 (95%CI 1.5-9.8) and 1.8 (95%CI 1.1-2.9), respectively. Amongst cases, parasite density and CRP were positively correlated (p<0.001), an association that remained significant when controlling for age and fever. Individuals with P.vivax mono-infections had the highest plasma CRP concentrations with the greatest association with parasitaemia. DISCUSSION: In this setting persistent malaria infections in asymptomatic individuals were associated with moderately elevated plasma CRP concentrations; chiefly evident in cases with P.vivax mono-infections. As well as interrupting malaria transmission within the community, treatment of asymptomatic malaria infections, in particular radical cure of vivax malaria, may benefit the health of infected individuals.

Tripura R, Peto TJ, Chalk J, Lee SJ, Sirithiranont P, Nguon C, Dhorda M, von Seidlein L, Maude RJ, Day NPJ et al. 2016. Persistent Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax infections in a western Cambodian population: implications for prevention, treatment and elimination strategies. Malar J, 15 (1), pp. 181. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Subclinical Plasmodium parasitaemia is an important reservoir for the transmission and persistence of malaria, particularly in low transmission areas. METHODS: Using ultrasensitive quantitative PCR (uPCR) for the detection of parasitaemia, the entire population of three Cambodian villages in Pailin province were followed for 1 year at three-monthly intervals. A cohort of adult participants found initially to have asymptomatic malaria parasitaemia was followed monthly over the same period. RESULTS: The initial cross sectional survey in June 2013 (M0) of 1447 asymptomatic residents found that 32 (2.2%) had Plasmodium falciparum, 48 (3.3%) had P. vivax, 4 (0.3%) had mixed infections and in 142/1447 (9.8%) malaria was detected but there was insufficient DNA to identify the species (Plasmodium. species). Polymorphisms in the 'K13-propeller' associated with reduced susceptibility to artemisinin derivatives (C580Y) were found in 17/32 (51%) P. falciparum strains. Monthly follow-up without treatment of 24 adult participants with asymptomatic mono or mixed P. falciparum infections found that 3/24 (13%) remained parasitaemic for 2-4 months, whereas the remaining 21/24 (87%) participants had cleared their parasitaemia after 1 month. In contrast, 12/34 (35%) adult participants with P. vivax mono-infection at M0 had malaria parasites (P. vivax or P. sp.) during four or more of the following 11 monthly surveys. CONCLUSIONS: This longitudinal survey in a low transmission setting shows limited duration of P. falciparum carriage, but prolonged carriage of P. vivax infections. Radical treatment of P. vivax infections by 8-aminoquinoline regimens may be required to eliminate all malaria from Cambodia. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01872702.

Imwong M, Nguyen TN, Tripura R, Peto TJ, Lee SJ, Lwin KM, Suangkanarat P, Jeeyapant A, Vihokhern B, Wongsaen K et al. 2015. The epidemiology of subclinical malaria infections in South-East Asia: findings from cross-sectional surveys in Thailand-Myanmar border areas, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Malar J, 14 (1), pp. 381. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The importance of the submicroscopic reservoir of Plasmodium infections for malaria elimination depends on its size, which is generally considered small in low transmission settings. The precise estimation of this reservoir requires more sensitive parasite detection methods. The prevalence of asymptomatic, sub-microscopic malaria was assessed by a sensitive, high blood volume quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction method in three countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-region. METHODS: Cross-sectional surveys were conducted in three villages in western Cambodia, four villages along the Thailand-Myanmar border and four villages in southwest Vietnam. Malaria parasitaemia was assessed by Plasmodium falciparum/pan malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), microscopy and a high volume ultra-sensitive real-time polymerase chain reaction (HVUSqPCR: limit of detection 22 parasites/mL). All villagers older than 6 months were invited to participate. RESULTS: A census before the surveys identified 7355 residents in the study villages. Parasite prevalence was 224/5008 (4 %) by RDT, 229/5111 (5 %) by microscopy, and 988/4975 (20 %) when assessed by HVUSqPCR. Of these 164 (3 %) were infected with P. falciparum, 357 (7 %) with Plasmodium vivax, 56 (1 %) with a mixed infection, and 411 (8 %) had parasite densities that were too low for species identification. A history of fever, male sex, and age of 15 years or older were independently associated with parasitaemia in a multivariate regression model stratified by site. CONCLUSION: Light microscopy and RDTs identified only a quarter of all parasitaemic participants. The asymptomatic Plasmodium reservoir is considerable, even in low transmission settings. Novel strategies are needed to eliminate this previously under recognized reservoir of malaria transmission.

Tun KM, Imwong M, Lwin KM, Win AA, Hlaing TM, Hlaing T, Lin K, Kyaw MP, Plewes K, Faiz MA et al. 2015. Spread of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Myanmar: a cross-sectional survey of the K13 molecular marker. Lancet Infect Dis, 15 (4), pp. 415-421. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Emergence of artemisinin resistance in southeast Asia poses a serious threat to the global control of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Discovery of the K13 marker has transformed approaches to the monitoring of artemisinin resistance, allowing introduction of molecular surveillance in remote areas through analysis of DNA. We aimed to assess the spread of artemisinin-resistant P falciparum in Myanmar by determining the relative prevalence of P falciparum parasites carrying K13-propeller mutations. METHODS: We did this cross-sectional survey at malaria treatment centres at 55 sites in ten administrative regions in Myanmar, and in relevant border regions in Thailand and Bangladesh, between January, 2013, and September, 2014. K13 sequences from P falciparum infections were obtained mainly by passive case detection. We entered data into two geostatistical models to produce predictive maps of the estimated prevalence of mutations of the K13 propeller region across Myanmar. FINDINGS: Overall, 371 (39%) of 940 samples carried a K13-propeller mutation. We recorded 26 different mutations, including nine mutations not described previously in southeast Asia. In seven (70%) of the ten administrative regions of Myanmar, the combined K13-mutation prevalence was more than 20%. Geospatial mapping showed that the overall prevalence of K13 mutations exceeded 10% in much of the east and north of the country. In Homalin, Sagaing Region, 25 km from the Indian border, 21 (47%) of 45 parasite samples carried K13-propeller mutations. INTERPRETATION: Artemisinin resistance extends across much of Myanmar. We recorded P falciparum parasites carrying K13-propeller mutations at high prevalence next to the northwestern border with India. Appropriate therapeutic regimens should be tested urgently and implemented comprehensively if spread of artemisinin resistance to other regions is to be avoided. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust-Mahidol University-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Programme and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Miotto O, Amato R, Ashley EA, MacInnis B, Almagro-Garcia J, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Mead D, Oyola SO, Dhorda M et al. 2015. Genetic architecture of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum. Nat Genet, 47 (3), pp. 226-234. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report a large multicenter genome-wide association study of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin, the frontline antimalarial drug. Across 15 locations in Southeast Asia, we identified at least 20 mutations in kelch13 (PF3D7_1343700) affecting the encoded propeller and BTB/POZ domains, which were associated with a slow parasite clearance rate after treatment with artemisinin derivatives. Nonsynonymous polymorphisms in fd (ferredoxin), arps10 (apicoplast ribosomal protein S10), mdr2 (multidrug resistance protein 2) and crt (chloroquine resistance transporter) also showed strong associations with artemisinin resistance. Analysis of the fine structure of the parasite population showed that the fd, arps10, mdr2 and crt polymorphisms are markers of a genetic background on which kelch13 mutations are particularly likely to arise and that they correlate with the contemporary geographical boundaries and population frequencies of artemisinin resistance. These findings indicate that the risk of new resistance-causing mutations emerging is determined by specific predisposing genetic factors in the underlying parasite population.

Mok S, Ashley EA, Ferreira PE, Zhu L, Lin Z, Yeo T, Chotivanich K, Imwong M, Pukrittayakamee S, Dhorda M et al. 2015. Drug resistance. Population transcriptomics of human malaria parasites reveals the mechanism of artemisinin resistance. Science, 347 (6220), pp. 431-435. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum threatens global efforts to control and eliminate malaria. Polymorphisms in the kelch domain-carrying protein K13 are associated with artemisinin resistance, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unknown. We analyzed the in vivo transcriptomes of 1043 P. falciparum isolates from patients with acute malaria and found that artemisinin resistance is associated with increased expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) pathways involving the major PROSC and TRiC chaperone complexes. Artemisinin-resistant parasites also exhibit decelerated progression through the first part of the asexual intraerythrocytic development cycle. These findings suggest that artemisinin-resistant parasites remain in a state of decelerated development at the young ring stage, whereas their up-regulated UPR pathways mitigate protein damage caused by artemisinin. The expression profiles of UPR-related genes also associate with the geographical origin of parasite isolates, further suggesting their role in emerging artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

White NJ, Ashley EA, Recht J, Delves MJ, Ruecker A, Smithuis FM, Eziefula AC, Bousema T, Drakeley C, Chotivanich K et al. 2014. Assessment of therapeutic responses to gametocytocidal drugs in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Malar J, 13 (1), pp. 483. | Show Abstract | Read more

Indirect clinical measures assessing anti-malarial drug transmission-blocking activity in falciparum malaria include measurement of the duration of gametocytaemia, the rate of gametocyte clearance or the area under the gametocytaemia-time curve (AUC). These may provide useful comparative information, but they underestimate dose-response relationships for transmission-blocking activity. Following 8-aminoquinoline administration P. falciparum gametocytes are sterilized within hours, whereas clearance from blood takes days. Gametocytaemia AUC and clearance times are determined predominantly by the more numerous female gametocytes, which are generally less drug sensitive than the minority male gametocytes, whereas transmission-blocking activity and thus infectivity is determined by the more sensitive male forms. In choosing doses of transmission-blocking drugs there is no substitute yet for mosquito-feeding studies.

Ashley EA, Dhorda M, Fairhurst RM, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Suon S, Sreng S, Anderson JM, Mao S, Sam B et al. 2014. Spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. N Engl J Med, 371 (5), pp. 411-423. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum has emerged in Southeast Asia and now poses a threat to the control and elimination of malaria. Mapping the geographic extent of resistance is essential for planning containment and elimination strategies. METHODS: Between May 2011 and April 2013, we enrolled 1241 adults and children with acute, uncomplicated falciparum malaria in an open-label trial at 15 sites in 10 countries (7 in Asia and 3 in Africa). Patients received artesunate, administered orally at a daily dose of either 2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day or 4 mg per kilogram, for 3 days, followed by a standard 3-day course of artemisinin-based combination therapy. Parasite counts in peripheral-blood samples were measured every 6 hours, and the parasite clearance half-lives were determined. RESULTS: The median parasite clearance half-lives ranged from 1.9 hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 7.0 hours at the Thailand-Cambodia border. Slowly clearing infections (parasite clearance half-life >5 hours), strongly associated with single point mutations in the "propeller" region of the P. falciparum kelch protein gene on chromosome 13 (kelch13), were detected throughout mainland Southeast Asia from southern Vietnam to central Myanmar. The incidence of pretreatment and post-treatment gametocytemia was higher among patients with slow parasite clearance, suggesting greater potential for transmission. In western Cambodia, where artemisinin-based combination therapies are failing, the 6-day course of antimalarial therapy was associated with a cure rate of 97.7% (95% confidence interval, 90.9 to 99.4) at 42 days. CONCLUSIONS: Artemisinin resistance to P. falciparum, which is now prevalent across mainland Southeast Asia, is associated with mutations in kelch13. Prolonged courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies are currently efficacious in areas where standard 3-day treatments are failing. (Funded by the U.K. Department of International Development and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01350856.).

Venkatesan M, Gadalla NB, Stepniewska K, Dahal P, Nsanzabana C, Moriera C, Price RN, Mårtensson A, Rosenthal PJ, Dorsey G et al. 2014. Polymorphisms in Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter and multidrug resistance 1 genes: parasite risk factors that affect treatment outcomes for P. falciparum malaria after artemether-lumefantrine and artesunate-amodiaquine. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 91 (4), pp. 833-843. | Show Abstract | Read more

Adequate clinical and parasitologic cure by artemisinin combination therapies relies on the artemisinin component and the partner drug. Polymorphisms in the Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter (pfcrt) and P. falciparum multidrug resistance 1 (pfmdr1) genes are associated with decreased sensitivity to amodiaquine and lumefantrine, but effects of these polymorphisms on therapeutic responses to artesunate-amodiaquine (ASAQ) and artemether-lumefantrine (AL) have not been clearly defined. Individual patient data from 31 clinical trials were harmonized and pooled by using standardized methods from the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network. Data for more than 7,000 patients were analyzed to assess relationships between parasite polymorphisms in pfcrt and pfmdr1 and clinically relevant outcomes after treatment with AL or ASAQ. Presence of the pfmdr1 gene N86 (adjusted hazards ratio = 4.74, 95% confidence interval = 2.29 - 9.78, P < 0.001) and increased pfmdr1 copy number (adjusted hazards ratio = 6.52, 95% confidence interval = 2.36-17.97, P < 0.001 : were significant independent risk factors for recrudescence in patients treated with AL. AL and ASAQ exerted opposing selective effects on single-nucleotide polymorphisms in pfcrt and pfmdr1. Monitoring selection and responding to emerging signs of drug resistance are critical tools for preserving efficacy of artemisinin combination therapies; determination of the prevalence of at least pfcrt K76T and pfmdr1 N86Y should now be routine.

Kloprogge F, Jullien V, Piola P, Dhorda M, Muwanga S, Nosten F, Day NPJ, White NJ, Guerin PJ, Tarning J. 2014. Population pharmacokinetics of quinine in pregnant women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Uganda. J Antimicrob Chemother, 69 (11), pp. 3033-3040. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVES: Oral quinine is used for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria during pregnancy, but few pharmacokinetic data are available for this population. Previous studies have reported a substantial effect of malaria on the pharmacokinetics of quinine resulting from increased α-1-acid glycoprotein levels and decreased cytochrome P450 3A4 activity. The aim of this study was to investigate the pharmacokinetic properties of oral quinine in pregnant women with uncomplicated malaria in Uganda using a population approach. METHODS: Data from 22 women in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria were analysed. Patients received quinine sulphate (10 mg of salt/kg) three times daily (0, 8 and 16 h) for 7 days. Plasma samples were collected daily and at frequent intervals after the first and last doses. A population pharmacokinetic model for quinine was developed accounting for different disposition, absorption, error and covariate models. RESULTS: Parasitaemia, as a time-varying covariate affecting relative bioavailability, and body temperature on admission as a covariate on elimination clearance, explained the higher exposure to quinine during acute malaria compared with the convalescent phase. Neither the estimated gestational age nor the trimester influenced the pharmacokinetic properties of quinine significantly. CONCLUSIONS: A population model was developed that adequately characterized quinine pharmacokinetics in pregnant Ugandan women with acute malaria. Quinine exposure was lower than previously reported in patients who were not pregnant. The measurement of free quinine concentration will be necessary to determine the therapeutic relevance of these observations.

Tarning J, Kloprogge F, Dhorda M, Jullien V, Nosten F, White NJ, Guerin PJ, Piola P. 2013. Pharmacokinetic properties of artemether, dihydroartemisinin, lumefantrine, and quinine in pregnant women with uncomplicated plasmodium falciparum malaria in Uganda. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 57 (10), pp. 5096-5103. | Show Abstract | Read more

Pregnancy alters the pharmacokinetic properties of many drugs used in the treatment of malaria, usually resulting in lower drug exposures. This increases the risks of treatment failure, adverse outcomes for the fetus, and the development of resistance. The pharmacokinetic properties of artemether and its principal metabolite dihydroartemisinin (n = 21), quinine (n = 21), and lumefantrine (n = 26) in pregnant Ugandan women were studied. Lumefantrine pharmacokinetics in a nonpregnant control group (n = 17) were also studied. Frequently sampled patient data were evaluated with noncompartmental analysis. No significant correlation was observed between estimated gestational age and artemether, dihydroartemisinin, lumefantrine, or quinine exposures. Artemether/dihydroartemisinin and quinine exposures were generally low in these pregnant women compared to values reported previously for nonpregnant patients. Median day 7 lumefantrine concentrations were 488 (range, 30.7 to 3,550) ng/ml in pregnant women compared to 720 (339 to 2,150) ng/ml in nonpregnant women (P = 0.128). There was no statistical difference in total lumefantrine exposure or maximum concentration. More studies with appropriate control groups in larger series are needed to characterize the degree to which pregnant women are underdosed with current antimalarial dosing regimens.

Schramm B, Valeh P, Baudin E, Mazinda CS, Smith R, Pinoges L, Dhorda M, Boum Y, Sundaygar T, Zolia YM et al. 2013. Efficacy of artesunate-amodiaquine and artemether-lumefantrine fixed-dose combinations for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria among children aged six to 59 months in Nimba County, Liberia: an open-label randomized non-inferiority trial. Malar J, 12 (1), pp. 251. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Prospective efficacy monitoring of anti-malarial treatments is imperative for timely detection of resistance development. The in vivo efficacy of artesunate-amodiaquine (ASAQ) fixed-dose combination (FDC) was compared to that of artemether-lumefantrine (AL) among children aged six to 59 months in Nimba County, Liberia, where Plasmodium falciparum malaria is endemic and efficacy data are scarce. METHODS: An open-label, randomized controlled non-inferiority trial compared the genotyping adjusted day 42 cure rates of ASAQ FDC (ASAQ Winthrop®) to AL (Coartem®) in 300 children aged six to 59 months with uncomplicated falciparum malaria. Inclusion was between December 2008 and May 2009. Randomization (1:1) was to a three-day observed oral regimen (ASAQ: once a day; AL: twice a day, given with fatty food). Day 7 desethylamodiaquine and lumefantrine blood-concentrations were also measured. RESULTS: The day 42 genotyping-adjusted cure rate estimates were 97.3% [95% CI: 91.6-99.1] for ASAQ and 94.2% [88.1-97.2] for AL (Kaplan-Meier survival estimates). The difference in day 42 cure rates was -3.1% [upper limit 95% CI: 1.2%]. These results were confirmed by observed proportion of patients cured at day 42 on the per-protocol population. Parasite clearance was 100% (ASAQ) and 99.3% (AL) on day 3. The probability to remain free of re-infection was 0.55 [95% CI: 0.46-0.63] (ASAQ) and 0.66 [0.57-0.73] (AL) (p = 0.017). CONCLUSIONS: Both ASAQ and AL were highly efficacious and ASAQ was non-inferior to AL. The proportion of patients with re-infection was high in both arms in this highly endemic setting. In 2010, ASAQ FDC was adopted as the first-line national treatment in Liberia. Continuous efficacy monitoring is recommended. TRIAL REGISTRATION: The protocols were registered with Current Controlled Trials, under the identifier numbers ISRCTN51688713, ISRCTN40020296.

Kloprogge F, Piola P, Dhorda M, Muwanga S, Turyakira E, Apinan S, Lindegårdh N, Nosten F, Day NPJ, White NJ et al. 2013. Population Pharmacokinetics of Lumefantrine in Pregnant and Nonpregnant Women With Uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum Malaria in Uganda. CPT Pharmacometrics Syst Pharmacol, 2 (11), pp. e83. | Show Abstract | Read more

Pregnancy alters the pharmacokinetic properties of many antimalarial compounds. The objective of this study was to evaluate the pharmacokinetic properties of lumefantrine in pregnant and nonpregnant women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Uganda after a standard fixed oral artemether-lumefantrine treatment. Dense venous (n = 26) and sparse capillary (n = 90) lumefantrine samples were drawn from pregnant patients. A total of 17 nonpregnant women contributed with dense venous lumefantrine samples. Lumefantrine pharmacokinetics was best described by a flexible absorption model with multiphasic disposition. Pregnancy and body temperature had a significant impact on the pharmacokinetic properties of lumefantrine. Simulations from the final model indicated 27% lower day 7 concentrations in pregnant women compared with nonpregnant women and a decreased median time of 0.92 and 0.42 days above previously defined critical concentration cutoff values (280 and 175 ng/ml, respectively). The standard artemether-lumefantrine dose regimen in P. falciparum malaria may need reevaluation in nonimmune pregnant women.CPT: Pharmacometrics & Systems Pharmacology (2013) 2, e83; doi:10.1038/psp.2013.59; advance online publication 13 November 2013.

Tarning J, Kloprogge F, Piola P, Dhorda M, Muwanga S, Turyakira E, Nuengchamnong N, Nosten F, Day NPJ, White NJ et al. 2012. Population pharmacokinetics of Artemether and dihydroartemisinin in pregnant women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Uganda. Malar J, 11 (1), pp. 293. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria in pregnancy increases the risk of maternal anemia, abortion and low birth weight. Approximately 85.3 million pregnancies occur annually in areas with Plasmodium falciparum transmission. Pregnancy has been reported to alter the pharmacokinetic properties of many anti-malarial drugs. Reduced drug exposure increases the risk of treatment failure. The objective of this study was to evaluate the population pharmacokinetic properties of artemether and its active metabolite dihydroartemisinin in pregnant women with uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in Uganda. METHODS: Twenty-one women with uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy received the fixed oral combination of 80 mg artemether and 480 mg lumefantrine twice daily for three days. Artemether and dihydroartemisinin plasma concentrations after the last dose administration were quantified using liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass-spectroscopy. A simultaneous drug-metabolite population pharmacokinetic model for artemether and dihydroartemisinin was developed taking into account different disposition, absorption, error and covariate models. A separate modeling approach and a non-compartmental analysis (NCA) were also performed to enable a comparison with literature values and different modeling strategies. RESULTS: The treatment was well tolerated and there were no cases of recurrent malaria. A flexible absorption model with sequential zero-order and transit-compartment absorption followed by a simultaneous one-compartment disposition model for both artemether and dihydroartemisinin provided the best fit to the data. Artemether and dihydroartemisinin exposure was lower than that reported in non-pregnant populations. An approximately four-fold higher apparent volume of distribution for dihydroartemisinin was obtained by non-compartmental analysis and separate modeling compared to that from simultaneous modeling of the drug and metabolite. This highlights a potential pitfall when analyzing drug/metabolite data with traditional approaches. CONCLUSION: The population pharmacokinetic properties of artemether and dihydroartemisinin, in pregnant women with uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in Uganda, were described satisfactorily by a simultaneous drug-metabolite model without covariates. Concentrations of artemether and its metabolite dihydroartemisinin were relatively low in pregnancy compared to literature data. However, this should be interpreted with caution considered the limited literature available. Further studies in larger series are urgently needed for this vulnerable group.

Espié E, Lima A, Atua B, Dhorda M, Flévaud L, Sompwe EM, Palma Urrutia PP, Guerin PJ. 2012. Efficacy of fixed-dose combination artesunate-amodiaquine versus artemether-lumefantrine for uncomplicated childhood Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Democratic Republic of Congo: a randomized non-inferiority trial. Malar J, 11 (1), pp. 174. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In 2005, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) adopted artesunate and amodiaquine (ASAQ) as first-line anti-malarial treatment. In order to compare the efficacy of the fixed-dose formulation ASAQ versus artemether-lumefantrine (AL), a randomized, non-inferiority open-label trial was conducted in Katanga. METHODS: Children aged six and 59 months with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria were enrolled and randomly allocated into one of the two regimens. The risk of recurrent parasitaemia by day 42, both unadjusted and adjusted by PCR genotyping to distinguish recrudescence from new infection, was analysed. RESULTS: Between April 2008 and March 2009, 301 children were included: 156 with ASAQ and 145 with AL. No early treatment failures were reported. Among the 256 patients followed-up at day 42, 32 patients developed late clinical or parasitological failure (9.9% (13/131) in the ASAQ group and 15.2% (19/125) in the AL group). After PCR correction, cure rates were 98.3% (95%CI, 94.1-99.8) in the ASAQ group and 99.1% (95%CI, 94.9-99.9) in the AL group (difference -0.7%, one sided 95% CI -3.1). Kaplan-Meier PCR-adjusted cure rates were similar. Both treatment regimens were generally well tolerated. CONCLUSION: Both ASAQ and AL are highly effective and currently adequate as the first-line treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria in this area of Katanga, DRC. However, in a very large country, such as DRC, and because of possible emergence of resistance from other endemic regions, surveillance of efficacy of artemisinin-based combination treatments, including other evaluations of the resistance of ASAQ, need to be done in other provinces. TRIAL REGISTRATION: The protocol was registered with the clinicaltrials.gov, open clinical trial registry under the identifier number NCT01567423.

Muehlenbachs A, Nabasumba C, McGready R, Turyakira E, Tumwebaze B, Dhorda M, Nyehangane D, Nalusaji A, Nosten F, Guerin PJ, Piola P. 2012. Artemether-lumefantrine to treat malaria in pregnancy is associated with reduced placental haemozoin deposition compared to quinine in a randomized controlled trial. Malar J, 11 (1), pp. 150. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Data on efficacy of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) to treat Plasmodium falciparum during pregnancy in sub-Saharan Africa is scarce. A recent open label, randomized controlled trial in Mbarara, Uganda demonstrated that artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is not inferior to quinine to treat uncomplicated malaria in pregnancy. Haemozoin can persist in the placenta following clearance of parasites, however there is no data whether ACT can influence the amount of haemozoin or the dynamics of haemozoin clearance. METHODS: Women attending antenatal clinics with weekly screening and positive blood smears by microscopy were eligible to participate in the trial and were followed to delivery. Placental haemozoin deposition and inflammation were assessed by histology. To determine whether AL was associated with increased haemozoin clearance, population haemozoin clearance curves were calculated based on the longitudinal data. RESULTS: Of 152 women enrolled in each arm, there were 97 and 98 placental biopsies obtained in the AL and quinine arms, respectively. AL was associated with decreased rates of moderate to high grade haemozoin deposition (13.3% versus 25.8%), which remained significant after correcting for gravidity, time of infection, re-infection, and parasitaemia. The amount of haemozoin proportionately decreased with the duration of time between treatment and delivery and this decline was greater in the AL arm. Haemozoin was not detected in one third of biopsies and the prevalence of inflammation was low, reflecting the efficacy of antenatal care with early detection and prompt treatment of malaria. CONCLUSIONS: Placental haemozoin deposition was decreased in the AL arm demonstrating a relationship between pharmacological properties of drug to treat antenatal malaria and placental pathology at delivery. Histology may be considered an informative outcome for clinical trials to evaluate malaria control in pregnancy. TRIAL REGISTRATION: REGISTRY: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00495508.

Dhorda M, Piola P, Nyehangane D, Tumwebaze B, Nalusaji A, Nabasumba C, Turyakira E, McGready R, Ashley E, Guerin PJ, Snounou G. 2012. Performance of a histidine-rich protein 2 rapid diagnostic test, Paracheck Pf®, for detection of malaria infections in Ugandan pregnant women. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 86 (1), pp. 93-95. | Show Abstract | Read more

Improved laboratory diagnosis is critical to reduce the burden of malaria in pregnancy. Peripheral blood smears appear less sensitive than Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein 2-based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for placental malaria infections in studies conducted at delivery. In this study, 81 women in Uganda in the second or third trimester of pregnancy were followed-up until delivery. At each visit, peripheral blood was tested by blood smear, RDT, and nested species-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Sensitivity and specificity of the tests was calculated with PCR, which detected 22 infections of P. falciparum, as the gold standard. The sensitivity and specificity of blood smears were 36.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 18.0-59.2%) and 99.6% (95% CI = 97.7-100%), respectively. The corresponding values for RDT were 31.8% (95% CI = 14.7-54.9%) and 100% (95% CI = 98.3-100%). The RDTs could replace blood smears for diagnosis of malaria in pregnancy by virtue of their relative ease of use. Field-based sensitive tests for malaria in pregnancy are urgently needed.

Dhorda M, Nyehangane D, Rénia L, Piola P, Guerin PJ, Snounou G. 2011. Transmission of Plasmodium vivax in south-western Uganda: report of three cases in pregnant women. PLoS One, 6 (5), pp. e19801. | Show Abstract | Read more

Plasmodium vivax is considered to be rare in the predominantly Duffy negative populations of Sub-Saharan Africa, as this red blood cell surface antigen is essential for invasion by the parasite. However, despite only very few reports of molecularly confirmed P. vivax from tropical Africa, serological evidence indicated that 13% of the persons sampled in Congo had been exposed to P. vivax. We identified P. vivax by microscopy in 8 smears from Ugandan pregnant women who had been enrolled in a longitudinal study of malaria in pregnancy. A nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol was used to detect and identify the Plasmodium parasites present. PCR analysis confirmed the presence of P. vivax for three of the women and analysis of all available samples from these women revealed clinically silent chronic low-grade vivax infections for two of them. The parasites in one woman carried pyrimethamine resistance-associated double non-synonymous mutations in the P. vivax dihydrofolate reductase gene. The three women found infected with P. vivax were Duffy positive as were nine of 68 women randomly selected from the cohort. The data presented from these three case reports is consistent with stable transmission of malaria in a predominantly Duffy negative African population. Given the substantial morbidity associated with vivax infection in non-African endemic areas, it will be important to investigate whether the distribution and prevalence of P. vivax have been underestimated in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is particularly important in the context of the drive to eliminate malaria and its morbidity.

Piola P, Nabasumba C, Turyakira E, Dhorda M, Lindegardh N, Nyehangane D, Snounou G, Ashley EA, McGready R, Nosten F, Guerin PJ. 2010. Efficacy and safety of artemether-lumefantrine compared with quinine in pregnant women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria: an open-label, randomised, non-inferiority trial. Lancet Infect Dis, 10 (11), pp. 762-769. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria in pregnancy is associated with maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. In 2006, WHO recommended use of artemisinin-based combination treatments during the second or third trimesters, but data on efficacy and safety in Africa were scarce. We aimed to assess whether artemether-lumefantrine was at least as efficacious as oral quinine for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy in Mbarara, Uganda. METHODS: We did an open-label, randomised, non-inferiority trial between October, 2006, and May, 2009, at the antenatal clinics of the Mbarara University of Science and Technology Hospital in Uganda. Pregnant women were randomly assigned (1:1) by computer generated sequence to receive either quinine hydrochloride or artemether-lumefantrine, and were followed up weekly until delivery. Our primary endpoint was cure rate at day 42, confirmed by PCR. The non-inferiority margin was a difference in cure rate of 5%. Analysis of efficacy was for all randomised patients without study deviations that could have affected the efficacy outcome. This study was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00495508. FINDINGS: 304 women were randomly assigned, 152 to each treatment group. By day 42, 16 patients were lost to follow-up and 25 were excluded from the analysis. At day 42, 137 (99.3%) of 138 patients taking artemether-lumefantrine and 122 (97.6%) of 125 taking quinine were cured-difference 1.7% (lower limit of 95% CI -0.9). There were 290 adverse events in the quinine group and 141 in the artemether-lumefantrine group. INTERPRETATION: Artemisinin derivatives are not inferior to oral quinine for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in pregnancy and might be preferable on the basis of safety and efficacy. FUNDING: Médecins Sans Frontières and the European Commission.

Gerstl S, Kiwila G, Dhorda M, Lonlas S, Myatt M, Ilunga BK, Lemasson D, Szumilin E, Guerin PJ, Ferradini L. 2009. Prevalence study of yaws in the Democratic Republic of Congo using the lot quality assurance sampling method. PLoS One, 4 (7), pp. e6338. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Until the 1970s the prevalence of non-venereal trepanomatosis, including yaws, was greatly reduced after worldwide mass treatment. In 2005, cases were again reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We carried out a survey to estimate the village-level prevalence of yaws in the region of Equator in the north of the country in order to define appropriate strategies to effectively treat the affected population. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We designed a community-based survey using the Lot Quality Assurance Sampling method to classify the prevalence of active yaws in 14 groups of villages (lots). The classification into high, moderate, or low yaws prevalence corresponded to World Health Organization prevalence thresholds for identifying appropriate operational treatment strategies. Active yaws cases were defined by suggestive clinical signs and positive rapid plasma reagin and Treponema pallidum hemagglutination serological tests. The overall prevalence in the study area was 4.7% (95% confidence interval: 3.4-6.0). Two of 14 lots had high prevalence (>10%), three moderate prevalence (5-10%) and nine low prevalence (<5%.). CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Although yaws is no longer a World Health Organization priority disease, the presence of yaws in a region where it was supposed to be eradicated demonstrates the importance of continued surveillance and control efforts. Yaws should remain a public health priority in countries where previously it was known to be endemic. The integration of sensitive surveillance systems together with free access to effective treatment is recommended. As a consequence of our study results, more than 16,000 people received free treatment against yaws.

Amarapurkar D, Dhorda M, Kirpalani A, Amarapurkar A, Kankonkar S. 2001. Prevalence of hepatitis C genotypes in Indian patients and their clinical significance. J Assoc Physicians India, 49 (OCT), pp. 983-985. | Show Abstract

AIM: To study the significance of hepatitis C genotypes in relation to severity of liver disease, progression of liver disease and response to treatment. METHODS: Sixty one consecutive patients with hepatitis C infection were evaluated with detailed history, clinical examination, biochemical, imaging and virological profile, liver histology whenever feasible. Hepatitis C infection was confirmed with AntiHCV third generation ELISA assay. HCVRNA by PCR and HCV genotyping by direct sequencing. RESULTS: Demographic profile of patients was as M:F 36:25, mean age 46.3 +/- 13.6 years (range 10 to 70 years). Clinical presentations of these patients were as cirrhosis 23, cirrhosis with HCC 3, chronic hepatitis 22, acute hepatitis 4, asymptomatic with normal enzymes nine. Distribution of genotypes was as follows; 13/61 (21%) genotype I, 15/61 (25%) genotypes II and 33/61 (54%) genotype III. Cirrhosis was significantly common in genotype I (77%) when compared to genotype II and III (33%); p < 0.001. Mean time of presenting as cirrhosis was much faster in genotype I (8.7 +/- 6.7 years) as compared to other genotypes (type II 12.8 +/- 4.2 years and genotype III 15.8 +/- 6.9 years). Genotype distribution in CRF and renal transplant patient was genotype I 8/23 (35%), genotype II 5/23 (22%) and genotype III 10/23 (43%). Fourteen patients were treated with interferon and ribavarine combination for one year. Sustained response seen in 8/14 (57%). All these patients had genotype non 1. All the four patients with Genotype I were non-responders. CONCLUSION: Hepatitis C genotype III is common in India, Genotype I runs a more severe course, faster progression and non responders to interferon as compared with genotype II and III.

Lybbert J, Gullingsrud J, Chesnokov O, Turyakira E, Dhorda M, Guerin PJ, Piola P, Muehlenbachs A, Oleinikov AV. 2016. Abundance of megalin and Dab2 is reduced in syncytiotrophoblast during placental malaria, which may contribute to low birth weight. Sci Rep, 6 (1), pp. 24508. | Show Abstract | Read more

Placental malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum contributes to ~200,000 child deaths annually, mainly due to low birth weight (LBW). Parasitized erythrocyte sequestration and consequent inflammation in the placenta are common attributes of placental malaria. The precise molecular details of placental changes leading to LBW are still poorly understood. We hypothesized that placental malaria may disturb maternofetal exchange of vitamins, lipids, and hormones mediated by the multi-ligand (n ~ 50) scavenging/signaling receptor megalin, which is abundantly expressed in placenta but was not previously analyzed in pregnancy outcomes. We studied abundance of megalin and its intracellular adaptor protein Dab2 by immunofluorescence microscopy in placental biopsies from Ugandan women with (n = 8) and without (n = 20) active placental malaria. We found that: (a) abundances of both megalin (p = 0.01) and Dab2 (p = 0.006) were significantly reduced in brush border of syncytiotrophoblast of infected placentas; (b) amounts of megalin and Dab2 were strongly correlated (Spearman's r = 0.53, p = 0.003); (c) abundances of megalin and Dab2 (p = 0.046) were reduced in infected placentas from women with LBW deliveries. This study provides first evidence that placental malaria infection is associated with reduced abundance of megalin transport/signaling system and indicate that these changes may contribute to the pathology of LBW.

Imwong M, Stepniewska K, Tripura R, Peto TJ, Lwin KM, Vihokhern B, Wongsaen K, von Seidlein L, Dhorda M, Snounou G et al. 2016. Numerical Distributions of Parasite Densities During Asymptomatic Malaria. J Infect Dis, 213 (8), pp. 1322-1329. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Asymptomatic parasitemia is common even in areas of low seasonal malaria transmission, but the true proportion of the population infected has not been estimated previously because of the limited sensitivity of available detection methods. METHODS: Cross-sectional malaria surveys were conducted in areas of low seasonal transmission along the border between eastern Myanmar and northwestern Thailand and in western Cambodia. DNA was quantitated by an ultrasensitive polymerase chain reaction (uPCR) assay (limit of accurate detection, 22 parasites/mL) to characterize parasite density distributions for Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, and the proportions of undetected infections were imputed. RESULTS: The prevalence of asymptomatic malaria as determined by uPCR was 27.5% (1303 of 4740 people tested). Both P. vivax and P. falciparum density distributions were unimodal and log normal, with modal values well within the quantifiable range. The estimated proportions of all parasitemic individuals identified by uPCR were >70% among individuals infected with P. falciparum and >85% among those infected with P. vivax. Overall, 83% of infections were predicted to be P. vivax infections, 13% were predicted to be P. falciparum infections, and 4% were predicted to be mixed infections. Geometric mean parasite densities were similar; 5601 P. vivax parasites/mL and 5158 P. falciparum parasites/mL. CONCLUSIONS: This uPCR method identified most infected individuals in malaria-endemic areas. Malaria parasitemia persists in humans at levels that optimize the probability of generating transmissible gametocyte densities without causing illness.

Tun KM, Imwong M, Lwin KM, Win AA, Hlaing TM, Hlaing T, Lin K, Kyaw MP, Plewes K, Faiz MA et al. 2015. Spread of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Myanmar: a cross-sectional survey of the K13 molecular marker. Lancet Infect Dis, 15 (4), pp. 415-421. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Emergence of artemisinin resistance in southeast Asia poses a serious threat to the global control of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Discovery of the K13 marker has transformed approaches to the monitoring of artemisinin resistance, allowing introduction of molecular surveillance in remote areas through analysis of DNA. We aimed to assess the spread of artemisinin-resistant P falciparum in Myanmar by determining the relative prevalence of P falciparum parasites carrying K13-propeller mutations. METHODS: We did this cross-sectional survey at malaria treatment centres at 55 sites in ten administrative regions in Myanmar, and in relevant border regions in Thailand and Bangladesh, between January, 2013, and September, 2014. K13 sequences from P falciparum infections were obtained mainly by passive case detection. We entered data into two geostatistical models to produce predictive maps of the estimated prevalence of mutations of the K13 propeller region across Myanmar. FINDINGS: Overall, 371 (39%) of 940 samples carried a K13-propeller mutation. We recorded 26 different mutations, including nine mutations not described previously in southeast Asia. In seven (70%) of the ten administrative regions of Myanmar, the combined K13-mutation prevalence was more than 20%. Geospatial mapping showed that the overall prevalence of K13 mutations exceeded 10% in much of the east and north of the country. In Homalin, Sagaing Region, 25 km from the Indian border, 21 (47%) of 45 parasite samples carried K13-propeller mutations. INTERPRETATION: Artemisinin resistance extends across much of Myanmar. We recorded P falciparum parasites carrying K13-propeller mutations at high prevalence next to the northwestern border with India. Appropriate therapeutic regimens should be tested urgently and implemented comprehensively if spread of artemisinin resistance to other regions is to be avoided. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust-Mahidol University-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Programme and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Miotto O, Amato R, Ashley EA, MacInnis B, Almagro-Garcia J, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Mead D, Oyola SO, Dhorda M et al. 2015. Genetic architecture of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum. Nat Genet, 47 (3), pp. 226-234. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report a large multicenter genome-wide association study of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin, the frontline antimalarial drug. Across 15 locations in Southeast Asia, we identified at least 20 mutations in kelch13 (PF3D7_1343700) affecting the encoded propeller and BTB/POZ domains, which were associated with a slow parasite clearance rate after treatment with artemisinin derivatives. Nonsynonymous polymorphisms in fd (ferredoxin), arps10 (apicoplast ribosomal protein S10), mdr2 (multidrug resistance protein 2) and crt (chloroquine resistance transporter) also showed strong associations with artemisinin resistance. Analysis of the fine structure of the parasite population showed that the fd, arps10, mdr2 and crt polymorphisms are markers of a genetic background on which kelch13 mutations are particularly likely to arise and that they correlate with the contemporary geographical boundaries and population frequencies of artemisinin resistance. These findings indicate that the risk of new resistance-causing mutations emerging is determined by specific predisposing genetic factors in the underlying parasite population.

Mok S, Ashley EA, Ferreira PE, Zhu L, Lin Z, Yeo T, Chotivanich K, Imwong M, Pukrittayakamee S, Dhorda M et al. 2015. Drug resistance. Population transcriptomics of human malaria parasites reveals the mechanism of artemisinin resistance. Science, 347 (6220), pp. 431-435. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum threatens global efforts to control and eliminate malaria. Polymorphisms in the kelch domain-carrying protein K13 are associated with artemisinin resistance, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unknown. We analyzed the in vivo transcriptomes of 1043 P. falciparum isolates from patients with acute malaria and found that artemisinin resistance is associated with increased expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) pathways involving the major PROSC and TRiC chaperone complexes. Artemisinin-resistant parasites also exhibit decelerated progression through the first part of the asexual intraerythrocytic development cycle. These findings suggest that artemisinin-resistant parasites remain in a state of decelerated development at the young ring stage, whereas their up-regulated UPR pathways mitigate protein damage caused by artemisinin. The expression profiles of UPR-related genes also associate with the geographical origin of parasite isolates, further suggesting their role in emerging artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

White NJ, Ashley EA, Recht J, Delves MJ, Ruecker A, Smithuis FM, Eziefula AC, Bousema T, Drakeley C, Chotivanich K et al. 2014. Assessment of therapeutic responses to gametocytocidal drugs in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Malar J, 13 (1), pp. 483. | Show Abstract | Read more

Indirect clinical measures assessing anti-malarial drug transmission-blocking activity in falciparum malaria include measurement of the duration of gametocytaemia, the rate of gametocyte clearance or the area under the gametocytaemia-time curve (AUC). These may provide useful comparative information, but they underestimate dose-response relationships for transmission-blocking activity. Following 8-aminoquinoline administration P. falciparum gametocytes are sterilized within hours, whereas clearance from blood takes days. Gametocytaemia AUC and clearance times are determined predominantly by the more numerous female gametocytes, which are generally less drug sensitive than the minority male gametocytes, whereas transmission-blocking activity and thus infectivity is determined by the more sensitive male forms. In choosing doses of transmission-blocking drugs there is no substitute yet for mosquito-feeding studies.

Ashley EA, Dhorda M, Fairhurst RM, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Suon S, Sreng S, Anderson JM, Mao S, Sam B et al. 2014. Spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. N Engl J Med, 371 (5), pp. 411-423. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum has emerged in Southeast Asia and now poses a threat to the control and elimination of malaria. Mapping the geographic extent of resistance is essential for planning containment and elimination strategies. METHODS: Between May 2011 and April 2013, we enrolled 1241 adults and children with acute, uncomplicated falciparum malaria in an open-label trial at 15 sites in 10 countries (7 in Asia and 3 in Africa). Patients received artesunate, administered orally at a daily dose of either 2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day or 4 mg per kilogram, for 3 days, followed by a standard 3-day course of artemisinin-based combination therapy. Parasite counts in peripheral-blood samples were measured every 6 hours, and the parasite clearance half-lives were determined. RESULTS: The median parasite clearance half-lives ranged from 1.9 hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 7.0 hours at the Thailand-Cambodia border. Slowly clearing infections (parasite clearance half-life >5 hours), strongly associated with single point mutations in the "propeller" region of the P. falciparum kelch protein gene on chromosome 13 (kelch13), were detected throughout mainland Southeast Asia from southern Vietnam to central Myanmar. The incidence of pretreatment and post-treatment gametocytemia was higher among patients with slow parasite clearance, suggesting greater potential for transmission. In western Cambodia, where artemisinin-based combination therapies are failing, the 6-day course of antimalarial therapy was associated with a cure rate of 97.7% (95% confidence interval, 90.9 to 99.4) at 42 days. CONCLUSIONS: Artemisinin resistance to P. falciparum, which is now prevalent across mainland Southeast Asia, is associated with mutations in kelch13. Prolonged courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies are currently efficacious in areas where standard 3-day treatments are failing. (Funded by the U.K. Department of International Development and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01350856.).

Venkatesan M, Gadalla NB, Stepniewska K, Dahal P, Nsanzabana C, Moriera C, Price RN, Mårtensson A, Rosenthal PJ, Dorsey G et al. 2014. Polymorphisms in Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter and multidrug resistance 1 genes: parasite risk factors that affect treatment outcomes for P. falciparum malaria after artemether-lumefantrine and artesunate-amodiaquine. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 91 (4), pp. 833-843. | Show Abstract | Read more

Adequate clinical and parasitologic cure by artemisinin combination therapies relies on the artemisinin component and the partner drug. Polymorphisms in the Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter (pfcrt) and P. falciparum multidrug resistance 1 (pfmdr1) genes are associated with decreased sensitivity to amodiaquine and lumefantrine, but effects of these polymorphisms on therapeutic responses to artesunate-amodiaquine (ASAQ) and artemether-lumefantrine (AL) have not been clearly defined. Individual patient data from 31 clinical trials were harmonized and pooled by using standardized methods from the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network. Data for more than 7,000 patients were analyzed to assess relationships between parasite polymorphisms in pfcrt and pfmdr1 and clinically relevant outcomes after treatment with AL or ASAQ. Presence of the pfmdr1 gene N86 (adjusted hazards ratio = 4.74, 95% confidence interval = 2.29 - 9.78, P < 0.001) and increased pfmdr1 copy number (adjusted hazards ratio = 6.52, 95% confidence interval = 2.36-17.97, P < 0.001 : were significant independent risk factors for recrudescence in patients treated with AL. AL and ASAQ exerted opposing selective effects on single-nucleotide polymorphisms in pfcrt and pfmdr1. Monitoring selection and responding to emerging signs of drug resistance are critical tools for preserving efficacy of artemisinin combination therapies; determination of the prevalence of at least pfcrt K76T and pfmdr1 N86Y should now be routine.

Dhorda M, Piola P, Nyehangane D, Tumwebaze B, Nalusaji A, Nabasumba C, Turyakira E, McGready R, Ashley E, Guerin PJ, Snounou G. 2012. Performance of a histidine-rich protein 2 rapid diagnostic test, Paracheck Pf®, for detection of malaria infections in Ugandan pregnant women. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 86 (1), pp. 93-95. | Show Abstract | Read more

Improved laboratory diagnosis is critical to reduce the burden of malaria in pregnancy. Peripheral blood smears appear less sensitive than Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein 2-based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for placental malaria infections in studies conducted at delivery. In this study, 81 women in Uganda in the second or third trimester of pregnancy were followed-up until delivery. At each visit, peripheral blood was tested by blood smear, RDT, and nested species-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Sensitivity and specificity of the tests was calculated with PCR, which detected 22 infections of P. falciparum, as the gold standard. The sensitivity and specificity of blood smears were 36.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 18.0-59.2%) and 99.6% (95% CI = 97.7-100%), respectively. The corresponding values for RDT were 31.8% (95% CI = 14.7-54.9%) and 100% (95% CI = 98.3-100%). The RDTs could replace blood smears for diagnosis of malaria in pregnancy by virtue of their relative ease of use. Field-based sensitive tests for malaria in pregnancy are urgently needed.

Dhorda M, Nyehangane D, Rénia L, Piola P, Guerin PJ, Snounou G. 2011. Transmission of Plasmodium vivax in south-western Uganda: report of three cases in pregnant women. PLoS One, 6 (5), pp. e19801. | Show Abstract | Read more

Plasmodium vivax is considered to be rare in the predominantly Duffy negative populations of Sub-Saharan Africa, as this red blood cell surface antigen is essential for invasion by the parasite. However, despite only very few reports of molecularly confirmed P. vivax from tropical Africa, serological evidence indicated that 13% of the persons sampled in Congo had been exposed to P. vivax. We identified P. vivax by microscopy in 8 smears from Ugandan pregnant women who had been enrolled in a longitudinal study of malaria in pregnancy. A nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol was used to detect and identify the Plasmodium parasites present. PCR analysis confirmed the presence of P. vivax for three of the women and analysis of all available samples from these women revealed clinically silent chronic low-grade vivax infections for two of them. The parasites in one woman carried pyrimethamine resistance-associated double non-synonymous mutations in the P. vivax dihydrofolate reductase gene. The three women found infected with P. vivax were Duffy positive as were nine of 68 women randomly selected from the cohort. The data presented from these three case reports is consistent with stable transmission of malaria in a predominantly Duffy negative African population. Given the substantial morbidity associated with vivax infection in non-African endemic areas, it will be important to investigate whether the distribution and prevalence of P. vivax have been underestimated in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is particularly important in the context of the drive to eliminate malaria and its morbidity.

Piola P, Nabasumba C, Turyakira E, Dhorda M, Lindegardh N, Nyehangane D, Snounou G, Ashley EA, McGready R, Nosten F, Guerin PJ. 2010. Efficacy and safety of artemether-lumefantrine compared with quinine in pregnant women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria: an open-label, randomised, non-inferiority trial. Lancet Infect Dis, 10 (11), pp. 762-769. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria in pregnancy is associated with maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. In 2006, WHO recommended use of artemisinin-based combination treatments during the second or third trimesters, but data on efficacy and safety in Africa were scarce. We aimed to assess whether artemether-lumefantrine was at least as efficacious as oral quinine for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy in Mbarara, Uganda. METHODS: We did an open-label, randomised, non-inferiority trial between October, 2006, and May, 2009, at the antenatal clinics of the Mbarara University of Science and Technology Hospital in Uganda. Pregnant women were randomly assigned (1:1) by computer generated sequence to receive either quinine hydrochloride or artemether-lumefantrine, and were followed up weekly until delivery. Our primary endpoint was cure rate at day 42, confirmed by PCR. The non-inferiority margin was a difference in cure rate of 5%. Analysis of efficacy was for all randomised patients without study deviations that could have affected the efficacy outcome. This study was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00495508. FINDINGS: 304 women were randomly assigned, 152 to each treatment group. By day 42, 16 patients were lost to follow-up and 25 were excluded from the analysis. At day 42, 137 (99.3%) of 138 patients taking artemether-lumefantrine and 122 (97.6%) of 125 taking quinine were cured-difference 1.7% (lower limit of 95% CI -0.9). There were 290 adverse events in the quinine group and 141 in the artemether-lumefantrine group. INTERPRETATION: Artemisinin derivatives are not inferior to oral quinine for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in pregnancy and might be preferable on the basis of safety and efficacy. FUNDING: Médecins Sans Frontières and the European Commission.

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