BACKGROUND: In 2009, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Department of Health adopted artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DHA-PPQ) as the first- and second-line treatments for uncomplicated malaria, respectively. This study was conducted to assess the efficacy of both drugs following adoption of the new policy.
METHODS: Between June 2012 and September 2014, a therapeutic efficacy study was conducted in East Sepik and Milne Bay Provinces of PNG in accordance with the standard World Health Organization (WHO) protocol for surveillance of anti-malarial drug efficacy. Patients ≥ 6 months of age with microscopy confirmed Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium vivax mono-infections were enrolled, treated with AL or DHA-PPQ, and followed up for 42 days. Study endpoints were adequate clinical and parasitological response (ACPR) on days 28 and 42. The in vitro efficacy of anti-malarials and the prevalence of selected molecular markers of resistance were also determined.
RESULTS: A total of 274 P. falciparum and 70 P. vivax cases were enrolled. The day-42 PCR-corrected ACPR for P. falciparum was 98.1% (104/106) for AL and 100% (135/135) for DHA-PPQ. The day-42 PCR-corrected ACPR for P. vivax was 79.0% (15/19) for AL and 92.3% (36/39) for DHA-PPQ. Day 3 parasite clearance of P. falciparum was 99.2% with AL and 100% with DHA-PPQ. In vitro testing of 96 samples revealed low susceptibility to chloroquine (34% of samples above IC50 threshold) but not to lumefantrine (0%). Molecular markers assessed in a sub-set of the study population indicated high rates of chloroquine resistance in P. falciparum (pfcrt SVMNT: 94.2%, n = 104) and in P. vivax (pvmdr1 Y976F: 64.8%, n = 54).
CONCLUSIONS: AL and DHA-PPQ were efficacious as first- and second-line treatments for uncomplicated malaria in PNG. Continued in vivo efficacy monitoring is warranted considering the threat of resistance to artemisinin and partner drugs in the region and scale-up of artemisinin-based combination therapy in PNG.