Management of severe paediatric malaria in resource-limited settings

Maitland K
BMC Med. 2015;13

Permenent descriptor

Over 90% of the world's severe and fatal Plasmodium falciparum malaria is estimated to affect young children in sub-Sahara Africa, where it remains a common cause of hospital admission and inpatient mortality. Few children will ever be managed on high dependency or intensive care units and, therefore, rely on simple supportive treatments and parenteral anti-malarials. There has been some progress on defining best practice for antimalarial treatment with the publication of the AQUAMAT trial in 2010, involving 5,425 children at 11 centres across 9 African countries, showing that in artesunate-treated children, the relative risk of death was 22.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) 8.1 to 36.9) lower than in those receiving quinine. Human trials of supportive therapies carried out on the basis of pathophysiology studies, have so far made little progress on reducing mortality; despite appearing to reduce morbidity endpoints, more often than not they have led to an excess of adverse outcomes. This review highlights the spectrum of complications in African children with severe malaria, the therapeutic challenges of managing these in resource-poor settings and examines in-depth the results from clinical trials with a view to identifying the treatment priorities and a future research agenda.