Management of severe malaria.
The case fatality of WHO-defined 'severe falciparum malaria' remains unacceptably high, at 10-20%. However, a gradual decline in case fatality in adults and children treated in hospitals may reflect use of improved regimens of antimalarial chemotherapy and increased awareness of important complications of the disease. The development of severe, perhaps inevitably-fatal, malaria might be prevented by early appropriate chemotherapy of uncomplicated disease. At the most peripheral levels of the health service, suppository formulations of artemisinin derivatives can be administered even to patients who are vomiting or prostrated. At dispensaries, clinics or hospitals, where intramuscular or intravenous administration of antimalarial drugs is possible, quinine and artemisinin derivatives are the treatments of choice. There is growing evidence of the safety and efficacy of the quinine loading dose and of the use of artemether and artesunate, based on large, randomised, controlled clinical studies. No safe and effective form of prophylactic ancillary treatment has yet emerged. Results of studies of antipyretics, anticonvulsants (phenobarbitone), anticytokine/anti-inflammatory agents (anti-TNF antibodies, pentoxifylline, dexamethasone), iron chelators and hyperimmune sera have been disappointing. Only blood transfusion and treatment of respiratory, circulatory and renal failure are of obvious benefit. New ideas are needed, based on what is known of the pathophysiology of severe disease.