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Malar J. 2020 Jan 21;19(1):34. doi: 10.1186/s12936-020-3121-3.

Optimal timing of primaquine to reduce Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte carriage when co-administered with artemether-lumefantrine.

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Bagamoyo Research and Training Centre (BRTC), Ifakara Health Institute, Bagamoyo, Tanzania.
Bagamoyo Research and Training Centre (BRTC), Ifakara Health Institute, Bagamoyo, Tanzania.
Africa Academy for Public Health, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Department of Immunology and Infection, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK.



Primaquine is an important gametocytocidal drug that is combined with conventional malaria treatment for prevention of Plasmodium falciparum malaria transmission. Primaquine has been administered together on the first or the last day of conventional treatment but the impact of primaquine timing has never been examined. This study aimed to assess safety, efficacy and optimal timing of single full-dose (0.75 mg/kg) primaquine when added to a standard 6-dose regimen of artemether-lumefantrine (AL).


In an individual-level randomized controlled trial, enrolled participants who were G6PD normal and had uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria were randomly assigned to receive: AL only; AL and a single 0.75 mg/kg primaquine dose on the first day of AL (day 1); or AL and single 0.75 mg//kg primaquine on the last day of AL (day 3). On days 2, 3, 4, 8, 11 and 15, gametocytes were assessed and quantified by microscope and quantitative nuclear acid sequence based quantification (QT-NASBA).


Overall, 111 participants aged between 3 and 17 years were randomly allocated to receive AL only (36) or combined with primaquine on day 1 (38), or primaquine on day 3 (37). Day 4 gametocyte prevalence in AL + day 1 primaquine was half the level seen in either AL + day 3 primaquine or AL only arm (11% [4/35] vs 26% [8/31] and 27% [8/30], respectively) albeit not statistically significant. A similar trend of lower gametocyte in the AL + day 1 primaquine verses AL + day 3 primaquine or AL only arm was observed in mean gametocyte density. Mean (sd) haemoglobin level in AL + day 3 primaquine arm recovered from -0.42(1.2) g/dl on day 2 to 0.35 (1.5) g/dl on day 15 of follow up. This was not the case in AL only and AL + day 1 primaquine arms during the same follow-up period, although the difference was not statistically significant (p = 318). No serious adverse events reported in the study. Across arms, 23% (26/111) of participants reported a total of 31 mild adverse events and the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.477).


Primaquine administration on the first day of AL is well tolerated and as safe as later administration. Whilst the World Health Organization currently recommends a lower dose of primaquine (0.25 mg/kg), the findings are supportive of early primaquine administration when combined with artemisinin-combination therapy. Registration NCT01906788.


Artemether–lumefantrine; Gametocyte; Malaria; Primaquine; Transmission

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