Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Malaria Journal and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research

Artemisinin derivatives versus quinine in treating severe malaria in children: a systematic review

George PrayGod1*, Albie de Frey2 and Michael Eisenhut3

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute for Medical Research, P.O Box 1462, Mwanza, Tanzania

2 School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, 7 York Road, Parktown 2193, Johannesburg, South Africa

3 Luton & Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Lewsey Road, Luton, LU4 0DZ, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Malaria Journal 2008, 7:210  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-7-210

Published: 17 October 2008



The efficacy of intravenous quinine, which is the mainstay for treating severe malaria in children, is decreasing in South East Asia and Africa. Artemisinin derivatives are a potential alternative to quinine. However, their efficacy compared to quinine in treating severe malaria in children is not clearly understood. The objective of this review was to assess the efficacy of parenteral artemisinin derivatives versus parenteral quinine in treating severe malaria in children.


All randomized controlled studies comparing parenteral artemisinin derivatives with parenteral quinine in treating severe malaria in children were included in the review. Data bases searched were: The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2007), MEDLINE (1966 to February 2008), EMBASE (1980 to February 2008), and LILACS (1982 to February 2008). Dichotomous variables were compared using risk ratios (RR) and the continuous data using weighted mean difference (WMD).


Twelve trials were included (1,524 subjects). There was no difference in mortality between artemisinin derivatives and quinine (RR = 0.90, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.12). The artemisinin derivatives resolved coma faster than quinine (WMD = -4.61, 95% CI: -7.21 to -2.00, fixed effect model), but when trials with adequate concealment only were considered this differences disappeared. There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in parasite clearance time, fever clearance time, incidence of neurological sequelae and 28th day cure rate. One trial reported significantly more local reactions at the injection site with intramuscular quinine compared to artemether. None of the trials was adequately powered to demonstrate equivalence.


There was no evidence that treatment of children with severe malaria with parenteral artemisinin derivatives was associated with lower mortality or long-term morbidity compared to parenteral quinine. Future studies require adequately powered equivalence trial design to decide whether both drugs are equally effective.