Original Research

Artesunate for the treatment of severe malaria: A retrospective review of patients admitted to two tertiary hospital intensive care units in Johannesburg, South Africa

Ratidzo Tadzimirwa, Shahed Omar, Jacqueline M. Brown, Ismail S. Kalla
Southern African Journal of Infectious Diseases | Vol 35, No 1 | a174 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajid.v35i1.174 | © 2020 Ratidzo Tadzimirwa, Shahed Omar, Jacqueline M. Brown, Ismail S. Kalla | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 August 2019 | Published: 18 December 2020

About the author(s)

Ratidzo Tadzimirwa, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Clinical Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Shahed Omar, Critical Care (ICU), Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Clinical Medicine, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Jacqueline M. Brown, Critical Care (ICU), Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Clinical Medicine, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Ismail S. Kalla, Pulmonology and Critical Care (ICU), Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Clinical Medicine, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Globally, malaria is one of the six major causes of deaths from communicable diseases. In South Africa, malaria is known to be endemic in three provinces. Two large trials, AQUAMAT and SEAQUAMAT, demonstrated the superiority of intravenous (IV) artesunate compared to quinine. A systematic review (including the above trials) demonstrated a mortality benefit for adult patients treated with artesunate, but included studies that were conducted in Asia with no adult data available for Africa. Given the lack of local data, we conducted this study to investigate the use of artesunate for the treatment of severe malaria at two academic adult intensive care units (ICUs) in Johannesburg.

Methods: We undertook a retrospective patient record review. All patients admitted to the two ICUs and treated for severe malaria using artesunate were included. The study period extended from April 2010 to April 2014. The primary outcome was to determine the observed mortality and relate it to the predicted mortality based on the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE II) severity of illness score. The ratio of the observed mortality to the expected mortality based on the APACHE II severity of illness score provides a standardised mortality ratio (SMR). Clinical and laboratory parameters data were analysed.

Results: There were 56 patients included in the study, of which 40 were male (71.4%). The mean APACHE II score was 19 (standard deviation 5.4). We observed a lower than predicted mortality rate of 21.4% (SMR 0.66). Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was the most prevalent comorbidity (32%). There was no travel history in 26.8% of patients. Heart rate, respiratory rate and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) all improved significantly from admission to the time of discharge (p ≤ 0.01). Acidaemia, bilirubin, urea and bleeding risk (platelet count) also improved (p ≤ 0.01). Mechanical ventilation was associated with an increased risk of death (OR 35; CI 7.0–182).

Conclusion: In this retrospective two-centre study, IV artesunate was associated with a lower than predicted mortality in adult patients with severe malaria requiring ICU admission.


Keywords

severe malaria; malaria; critically ill; artesunate; intensive care.

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