Safety and parasite clearance of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum infection: A pilot and a randomised volunteer infection study in Australia

by Rebecca E. Watts, Anand Odedra, Louise Marquart, Lachlan Webb, Azrin N. Abd-Rahman, Laura Cascales, Stephan Chalon, Maria Rebelo, Zuleima Pava, Katharine A. Collins, Cielo Pasay, Nanhua Chen, Christopher L. Peatey, Jörg J. Möhrle, James S. McCarthy


Artemisinin resistance is threatening malaria control. We aimed to develop and test a human model of artemisinin-resistant (ART-R) Plasmodium falciparum to evaluate the efficacy of drugs against ART-R malaria.

Methods and findings

We conducted 2 sequential phase 1, single-centre, open-label clinical trials at Q-Pharm, Brisbane, Australia, using the induced blood-stage malaria (IBSM) model, whereby healthy participants are intravenously inoculated with blood-stage parasites. In a pilot study, participants were inoculated (Day 0) with approximately 2,800 viable P. falciparum ART-R parasites. In a comparative study, participants were randomised to receive approximately 2,800 viable P. falciparum ART-R (Day 0) or artemisinin-sensitive (ART-S) parasites (Day 1). In both studies, participants were administered a single approximately 2 mg/kg oral dose of artesunate (AS; Day 9). Primary outcomes were safety, ART-R parasite infectivity, and parasite clearance. In the pilot study, 2 participants were enrolled between April 27, 2017, and September 12, 2017, and included in final analyses (males n = 2 [100%], mean age = 26 years [range, 23–28 years]). In the comparative study, 25 participants were enrolled between October 26, 2017, and October 18, 2018, of whom 22 were inoculated and included in final analyses (ART-R infected participants: males n = 7 [53.8%], median age = 22 years [range, 18–40 years]; ART-S infected participants: males n = 5 [55.6%], median age = 28 years [range, 22–35 years]). In both studies, all participants inoculated with ART-R parasites became parasitaemic. A total of 36 adverse events were reported in the pilot study and 277 in the comparative study. Common adverse events in both studies included headache, pyrexia, myalgia, nausea, and chills; none were serious. Seven participants experienced transient severe falls in white cell counts and/or elevations in liver transaminase levels which were considered related to malaria. Additionally, 2 participants developed ventricular extrasystoles that were attributed to unmasking of a predisposition to benign fever-induced tachyarrhythmia. In the comparative study, parasite clearance half-life after AS was significantly longer for ART-R infected participants (n = 13, 6.5 hours; 95% confidence interval [CI] 6.3–6.7 hours) compared with ART-S infected participants (n = 9, 3.2 hours; 95% CI 3.0–3.3 hours; p Conclusions

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We developed the first (to our knowledge) human model of ART-R malaria. The delayed clearance profile of ART-R parasites after AS aligns with field study observations. Although based on a relatively small sample size, results indicate that this model can be safely used to assess new drugs against ART-R P. falciparum.

Trial registration

The studies were registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12617000244303 (https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=372357) and ACTRN12617001394336 (https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=373637).

Paper source
Plos Journal

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