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Therapeutic efficacy of artemether-lumefantrine combination in the treatment of uncomplicated malaria among children under five years of age in three ecological zones in Ghana

Benjamin Abuaku1*, Nancy Duah1, Lydia Quaye1, Neils Quashie12 and Kwadwo Koram1

Author Affiliations

1 Epidemiology Department, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, P. O. Box LG581, Legon, Ghana

2 Centre for Tropical Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Ghana Medical School, P. O. Box GP4236, Accra, Ghana

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Malaria Journal 2012, 11:388  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-388

Published: 22 November 2012

Abstract

Background

In 2008, artemether - lumefantrine (AL) and dihydroartemisinin - piperaquine (DHAP) were added to artesunate - amodiaquine (AS-AQ) as first-line drugs for uncomplicated malaria in Ghana. The introduction of new drugs calls for continuous monitoring of these drugs to provide timely information on trends of their efficacy and safety to enhance timely evidence-based decision making by the National Malaria Control Programme. In this regard, the therapeutic efficacy of AL was monitored from September 2010 to April 2011 in four sentinel sites representing the three main ecological zones of the country.

Methods

The study was a one-arm prospective evaluation of clinical and parasitological responses to directly observed treatment for uncomplicated malaria among children aged 6 months to 59 months using the 2009 WHO protocol for surveillance of anti-malarial drug efficacy. Children recruited into the study received weight-based 20/120 mg AL at 0, 8, 24, 36, 48, and 60 hrs. Parasitaemia levels were assessed on days 2, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, and at any time a study child was brought to the clinic with fever.

Results

A total of 175 children were enrolled into the study: 56 in the savanna zone, 78 in the forest zone and 41 in the coastal zone. Per-protocol analysis showed that the overall PCR-corrected cure rates on day 14 and day 28 were 96.5% (95% CI: 92.1, 98.6) and 95.4% (95% CI: 90.3, 98.0), respectively, with statistically significant differences between the ecological zones. The 90.4% day-28 cure rate observed in the savannah zone (95% CI: 78.2, 96.4) was significantly the lowest compared with 100% (95% CI: 93.2, 99.9) in the forest zone and 93.8% (95% CI: 77.8, 98.9) in the coastal zone (P = 0.017). Fever and parasite clearance were slower among children enrolled in the savannah zone. Gametocytaemia after day-3 post-treatment was rare in all the zones.

Conclusions

The study has shown that AL remains efficacious in Ghana with significant ecologic zonal differences. The savannah zone may be a potential zone for any emergence of resistant alleles as a result of the slower parasite clearance observed in the zone.

Keywords:
Therapeutic efficacy; Artemether-lumefantrine; Uncomplicated malaria; Ecological zones; Ghana