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Int J Infect Dis. 2014 Dec;29:268-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2014.09.007. Epub 2014 Nov 1.

Haemolysis associated with the treatment of malaria with artemisinin derivatives: a systematic review of current evidence.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine I, Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
2
Department of Medicine I, Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria; Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Lambaréné, Gabon.
3
Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Lambaréné, Gabon; Institut für Tropenmedizin, Universität Tübingen, Wilhelm Straße 27, 72074 Tübingen, Germany.
4
Department of Medicine I, Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria; Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Lambaréné, Gabon; Institut für Tropenmedizin, Universität Tübingen, Wilhelm Straße 27, 72074 Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address: michael.ramharter@medizin.uni-tuebingen.de.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Artemisinin derivatives are the mainstay of antimalarial treatment, both for uncomplicated malaria and for severe disease. Artemisinins are known for their rapid onset of action, good tolerability, and safety. However, besides the sporadic but worrying reports of delayed parasite clearance after treatment with artemisinins, there have been an increasing number of reports of acute haemolytic anaemia following their use and the safety of this class of antimalarials is being questioned.

METHODS:

In this systematic review, all reports of patients experiencing haemolysis following the use of artemisinins for the treatment of malaria were identified and collated into an electronic database. Summary statistics were calculated to characterize the epidemiology and clinical features of this safety concern related to artemisinin derivatives.

RESULTS:

A total of 37 patients were identified suffering from haemolysis following the treatment of severe malaria with artemisinin derivatives. Thirty-one cases had received intravenous artesunate, while the remaining cases were attributed to other parenteral or oral regimens of artemisinin derivatives. The majority of patients were returning travellers (n=30), and six clinical cases had been reported in paediatric patients. The median onset of haemolysis was 15 (interquartile range (IQR) 13-15) days after the initiation of treatment for the 'delayed-onset' pattern and 17 (IQR 13-22) days for the 'persistent' haemolysis pattern. The median reduction in haemoglobin due to haemolysis was 6 g/dl (IQR 4-8 g/dl). The estimated proportion of patients suffering from severe malaria experiencing haemolysis after treatment with artemisinin derivatives was 13% (95% confidence interval 9-18%), and 73% of these (i.e., 9% of the total population) required blood transfusions. No fatal outcome has been reported in the literature to date.

CONCLUSIONS:

Haemolysis is commonly associated with the class of artemisinin drugs when used for the treatment of severe malaria. Potential causes of this safety issue are discussed. Although no deaths attributed to haemolysis have been reported so far, this safety issue may lead to life-threatening anaemia and is particularly worrying for regions where safe blood products are not readily available.

KEYWORDS:

Anaemia; Artemisinin; Artesunate; Falciparum; Haemolysis; Malaria

Comment in

PMID:
25448338
DOI:
10.1016/j.ijid.2014.09.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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