A recent randomized controlled trial, the WANECAM (West African Network for Clinical Trials of Antimalarial Drugs) trial, conducted at seven centers in West Africa, found that artemether-lumefantrine, artesunate-amodiaquine, pyronaridine-artesunate, and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine all displayed good efficacy. However, artemether-lumefantrine was associated with a shorter interval between clinical episodes than the other regimens. In a further comparison of these therapies, we identified cases of persisting submicroscopic parasitemia by quantitative PCR (qPCR) at 72 h posttreatment among WANECAM participants from 5 sites in Mali and Burkina Faso, and we compared treatment outcomes for this group to those with complete parasite clearance by 72 h. Among 552 evaluable patients, 17.7% had qPCR-detectable parasitemia at 72 h during their first treatment episode. This proportion varied among sites, reflecting differences in malaria transmission intensity, but did not differ among pooled drug treatment groups. However, patients who received artemether-lumefantrine and were qPCR positive at 72 h were significantly more likely to have microscopically detectable recurrent Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia by day 42 than those receiving other regimens and experienced, on average, a shorter interval before the next clinical episode. Haplotypes of and were also evaluated in persisting parasites. These data identify a possible threat to the parasitological efficacy of artemether-lumefantrine in West Africa, over a decade since it was first introduced on a large scale.
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