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Plasmodium falciparum has developed resistance to almost all routinely used antimalarial drugs. Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) has replaced chloroquine as first-line treatment of uncomplicated malaria infection in Kenya but resistance to SP is already reported. The addition of artemisinin derivatives to SP may delay the development of drug resistance, improve cure rates, and reduce transmission. The efficacy and safety of artesunate plus SP in the treatment of uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria was evaluated in a randomized trial of 600 children at Siaya District Hospital, western Kenya between October 1999 and March 2000. Children aged < 5 years were randomly assigned to receive SP alone (1.25 mg/kg based on pyrimethamine), or in combination with artesunate (4 mg/kg/d) for either 1 or 3 d. Parasitological failure by days 14 and 28 (polymerase chain reaction [PCR]-corrected for new infections) were the primary endpoints. Treatment failure rates by day 14 were 25.5% in the SP alone group, 16.2% (risk difference [delta]-9.3%, 95% CI -17.3 to -1.2%, P= 0.027) in the 1-dose artesunate group, and 9.4% (delta-16.2%, 95% CI -23.6 to -8.7%, P< 0.001) in the 3-dose artesunate group. Corresponding rates by day 28 were 46.0% in the SP alone group, 38.2% (delta-7.8%, 95% CI -17.7 to 2.1%, P= 0.16) in the 1-dose artesunate group, and 26.0% (delta-20.0%, 95% CI -29.4 to -10.6%, P < 0.001) in the 3-dose artesunate group. The artesunate and SP combination was well tolerated. There were no serious drug-related adverse events. Parasite clearance and gametocyte carriage were reduced significantly in both combination groups compared with SP alone. Three days of artesunate were required to reduce significantly the risk of treatment failure by day 28. However, the high background rate of parasitological failure with SP may make this combination unsuitable for widespread use in Kenya.

Original publication





Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Publication Date





585 - 591


Centre for Vector Biology and Control, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kisumu, Kenya.


Humans, Malaria, Falciparum, Fever, Sulfadoxine, Sesquiterpenes, Artemisinins, Pyrimethamine, Drug Combinations, Antimalarials, Treatment Outcome, Drug Therapy, Combination, Double-Blind Method, Genotype, Child, Preschool, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Kenya, Female, Male, Artesunate