New proof drug can prevent child malaria deaths

A new drug, derived from Chinese wormwood, is being hailed as more effective than quinine for treating children with life-threatening malaria.

In today’s Lancet online, scientists followed nearly 5,500 children hospitalized for severe malaria at 11 health centers in nine African countries. The children (under age 15) received two forms of intravenous treatment — traditional quinine or the Chinese drug artesunate (based on the wormwood derivative artemisinin).

The children receiving the Chinese drug were 23 percent less likely to die, the study found.

As described in a news article by Science magazine, many Asian countries have already switched to artesunate — a move the World Health Organization recommended be adopted globally for adults in 2006. But most malaria deaths are in children, the Sydney Morning Herald notes, and this drug should be routine for children as well.

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Editor Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom-at-humanosphere.org, follow him on Twitter @tompaulson and/or send a comment below.