Severe malaria: saving more lives with injectable artesunate

07 Oct 2013

Injectable artesunate: A safer, more effective treatment

Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to severe malaria. Those suffering are frequently on the brink of coma and multi-organ failure by the time they arrive at a clinic.1 Treatment must be rapid and suitable for administration to unconscious patients.

Intravenous quinine has been used to treat severe malaria for decades;2 however, the margin between efficacious doses and toxic doses is narrow,1 making its administration complex, lengthy and risky.

Injectable artesunate is better tolerated, easier to use and saves more lives than quinine.3,4,5,6 It is the fastest acting antimalarial agent available.7



1. World Health Organization. “Severe falciparum malaria”. World Health Organization, Communicable Diseases Cluster. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 94 (Suppl 1):S1–90 (2000).

2. Bloland PB. “Drug resistance in malaria”. World Health Organization. Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response (2001).

3. Dondorp A K et al. “Artesunate versus quinine for treatment of severe falciparum malaria: a randomised trial”. Lancet 366:717–725 (2005).

4. Dondorp AM et al. “Artesunate versus quinine in the treatment of severe falciparum malaria in African children (AQUAMAT): an open-label, randomised trial”. Lancet 376:1647–1657 (2010).

5. Médecins Sans Frontières. “Malaria: Making the Switch” (2011)

6. White NJ et al. “Severe hypoglycemia and hyperinsulinemia in falciparum malaria”. N Engl J Med 309:61–66 (1983).

7. White NJ. “Qinghaosu (artemisinin): the price of success”. Science 320:330–334 (2008).