Artesunate found to be more effective at treating serious malaria cases

The antimalarial drug artesunate, which is derived from herbs used in Chinese medicine, has recently been proven more effective at preventing death in serious cases of malaria than the drug quinine.

A systematic review conducted by Cochrane researchers updated a study of artesunate by adding a new large multicenter trial of African children to eight existing trials, according to

The review now includes 1,664 adults and 5,765 children from across Africa and Asia. According to the overall results, taking artesunate reduces the risk of death from severe malaria in adults by 39 percent and by 24 percent in children when compared to quinine.

Artesunate was recommended as preferred for the treatment of severe malaria in adults by the World Health Organization in 2006, but there was insufficient evidence to make the same finding in children.

"There is now enough evidence to be confident of these results in adults and children," Peter Olumese of the WHO's Global Malaria Program said, according to EureakAlert. "Intravenous artesunate is now being recommended as the treatment of choice for adults and children with severe malaria anywhere in the world."

More children given artesunate suffered from neurological difficulties than those given quinine, but these cases were generally resolved within a month of treatment and are considered outweighed by the increased rates of survival.

"The balance of benefits and harms is in favor of treatment with artesunate," David Sinclair of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said, according to Sinclair led the review team.

Severe malaria occurs when malaria disrupts the functioning of vital organs. It is associated with cerebral malaria, which damages the brain and can lead to disabilities.