Background: Chloroquine is a first line drug for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Uganda. Recently, there have been increasing reports of resistance of Plasmodium falciparum malaria to chloroquine, as well as an increase in malaria morbidity and mortality among adults and children.
Objectives: To assess the current effectiveness (clinical and parasitological response) of chloroquine in the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria, and to define the magnitude of chloroquine resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Kampala.
Design: A descriptive cross-sectional study among adults and children.
Setting: Mulago hospital complex (the national referral and teaching hospital in Kampala, Uganda) between September 1998 and March 1999.
Results: Ninety six patients with Plasmodiumfalciparum parasitaemia of 1000 to 100,000/microl of blood were treated with oral chloroquine phosphate, and followed up for 14 days. Sixty three (65.6%) patients showed clinical improvement, 29 (30.2%) deteriorated and four (4.2%) had no change. Adequate parasitological response was seen in 71(74 %), moderate in four (4.2%) and poor in 21(21.8%) patients. Treatment failures were highest among children below five years, with eleven (57.9%) children not responding to chloroquine.
Conclusion: Although chloroquine was found to be effective in two thirds of all patients, the high treatment failure, especially seen in children below five years is of concern. This necessitates further countrywide studies, and possibly a need to review the use of chloroquine as single first line drug for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in Uganda, especially in children below five years of age.