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BackgroundThe geographical, demographic, and socioeconomic distributions of malaria and malnutrition largely overlap. It remains unknown whether malnutrition affects the efficacy of WHO-recommended artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). A previous systematic review was inconclusive as data were sparse and heterogeneous, indicating that other methodological approaches, such as individual patient data meta-analysis, should be considered. The objective of this study was to conduct such a meta-analysis to assess the effect of malnutrition (wasting and stunting) on treatment outcomes in children younger than 5 years treated with an ACT for uncomplicated falciparum malaria.MethodsWe conducted a meta-analysis of individual patient data from studies identified through a systematic review of literature published between 1980 and 2018 in PubMed, Global Health, and Cochrane Libraries (PROSPERO CRD42017056934) and inspection of the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) repository for ACT efficacy studies, including children younger than 5 years with uncomplicated falciparum malaria. The association of either acute (wasting) or chronic (stunting) malnutrition with day 42 PCR-adjusted risk of recrudescence (ie, return of the same infection) or reinfection after therapy was investigated using Cox regression, and with day 2 parasite positivity using logistic regression.FindingsData were included from all 36 studies targeted, 31 from Africa. Of 11 301 eligible children in 75 study sites, 11·5% were wasted (weight-for-height Z score [WHZ] InterpretationChildren younger than 5 years with acute malnutrition and presenting with uncomplicated falciparum malaria were at higher risk of delayed parasite clearance, ACT treatment failure, and reinfections. Stunting was more prevalent, but not associated with changes in ACT efficacy. Acute malnutrition is known to impact medicine absorption and metabolism. Further study to inform dose optimisation of ACTs in wasted children is urgently needed.FundingBill & Melinda Gates Foundation.TranslationFor the French translation of the abstract see Supplementary Materials section.

Original publication





The Lancet. Global health

Publication Date





e631 - e640


WWARN ACT Malaria and Malnutrition Study Group, Humans, Malaria, Malaria, Falciparum, Malnutrition, Recurrence, Growth Disorders, Artemisinins, Antimalarials, Treatment Failure, Child, Child, Preschool, Reinfection