Background: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum threatens to reduce the efficacy of artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs), thus compromising global efforts to eliminate malaria. Recent treatment failures with dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine, the current first-line ACT in Cambodia, suggest that piperaquine resistance may be emerging in this country. We explored the relation between artemisinin resistance and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine failures, and sought to confirm the presence of piperaquine-resistant P falciparum infections in Cambodia.
Methods: In this prospective cohort study, we enrolled patients aged 2-65 years with uncomplicated P falciparum malaria in three Cambodian provinces: Pursat, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakiri. Participants were given standard 3-day courses of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine. Peripheral blood parasite densities were measured until parasites cleared and then weekly to 63 days. The primary outcome was recrudescent P falciparum parasitaemia within 63 days. We measured piperaquine plasma concentrations at baseline, 7 days, and day of recrudescence. We assessed phenotypic and genotypic markers of drug resistance in parasite isolates. The study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01736319.
Findings: Between Sept 4, 2012, and Dec 31, 2013, we enrolled 241 participants. In Pursat, where artemisinin resistance is entrenched, 37 (46%) of 81 patients had parasite recrudescence. In Preah Vihear, where artemisinin resistance is emerging, ten (16%) of 63 patients had recrudescence and in Ratanakiri, where artemisinin resistance is rare, one (2%) of 60 patients did. Patients with recrudescent P falciparum infections were more likely to have detectable piperaquine plasma concentrations at baseline compared with non-recrudescent patients, but did not differ significantly in age, initial parasite density, or piperaquine plasma concentrations at 7 days. Recrudescent parasites had a higher prevalence of kelch13 mutations, higher piperaquine 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) values, and lower mefloquine IC50 values; none had multiple pfmdr1 copies, a genetic marker of mefloquine resistance.
Interpretation: Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine failures are caused by both artemisinin and piperaquine resistance, and commonly occur in places where dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine has been used in the private sector. In Cambodia, artesunate plus mefloquine may be a viable option to treat dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine failures, and a more effective first-line ACT in areas where dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine failures are common. The use of single low-dose primaquine to eliminate circulating gametocytes is needed in areas where artemisinin and ACT resistance is prevalent.
Funding: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.