Artemisinin-based combination therapies decrease Plasmodium gametocyte carriage. However, the role of artesunate in monotherapy in vivo, the mechanisms involved, and the utility of gametocyte carriage as a potential tool for the surveillance of antimalarial resistance are poorly understood. In 2010-2011, we conducted an open-label, prospective efficacy study of artesunate as monotherapy in children 1-10 years of age with uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Bougoula-Hameau, Mali. Standard oral doses of artesunate were administered for 7 days and patients were followed up for 28 days. The data were compared to a similar study conducted in 2002-2004. Of 100 children enrolled in the 2010-2011 study, 92 were analyzed and compared to 217 children enrolled in the 2002-2004 study. The proportion of gametocyte carriers was unchanged at the end of treatment (23% at baseline vs. 24% on day 7, p = 1.0) and did not significantly decline until day 21 of follow-up (23% vs. 6%, p = 0.003). The mean gametocyte density at inclusion remained unchanged at the end of treatment (12 gametocytes/μL vs. 16 gametocytes/μL, p = 0.6). Overall, 46% of the 71 initial non-carriers had gametocytes detected by day 7. Similar results were found in the 2002-2004 study. In both studies, although gametocyte carriage significantly decreased by the end of the 28-day follow-up, artesunate did not clear mature gametocytes during treatment and did not prevent the appearance of new stage V gametocytes as assessed by light microscopy. Baseline gametocyte carriage was significantly higher 6 years after the deployment of artemisinin-based combination therapies in this setting.
Djimde, A. A., Maiga, A. W., Ouologuem, D., Fofana, B., Sagara, I., Dembele, D., … Doumbo, O. K. (2016). Gametocyte clearance dynamics following oral artesunate treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Malian children. Parasite, 23. https://doi.org/10.1051/parasite/2016003