What Is Artemisinin Combination Therapy?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 April 2019
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Artemisinin combination therapy is used to treat uncomplicated Falciparum malaria. It consists of two drugs, often co-formulated, with one artemisinin derivative and another antimalarial drug from a different class. By combining the two drugs to treat malaria, the development of resistant strains of malaria can be minimized. There are a number of different combinations of drugs used in the artemisinin combination therapy, which may be be known by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer.

Malaria is a serious disease transmitted by mosquitoes in malaria endemic areas of the world. These include large parts of tropical and sub-tropical Africa, Asia and South America. There are a number of different types of malaria, the most potentially serious one being caused by Plasmodium falciparum. Malaria may manifest with flu-like symptoms, spiking fevers, chills and gastrointestinal symptoms. Should any symptoms occur after traveling to a malaria-endemic area, urgent medical attention should be sought, as the disease progresses rapidly and can be fatal.


When traveling to a malaria-endemic area, the use of prophylactic medication is usually recommended. Advice should be sought from a travel clinic to ascertain which malaria prophylaxis is most suitable for the area which will be visited. In the case of travel to very remote areas with minimal access to medical facilities, it may be advised to take a course of treatment, such as artemisinin combination therapy, in case malaria is contracted. This should be seen merely as standby treatment and medical help should be sought as soon as possible, despite starting treatment.

There a number of different combinations of drugs used as artemisinin combination therapy. They all contain an artemisinin-derivative, such as artemether, artesunate and dihydroartemisinin and a second antimalarial drug such as lumefantrine, amodiaquine and mefloquine. Artemisinin-derivatives are derived from the Chinese medicines called Qinghaosu from the wormwood tree. Combining two drugs with different mechanisms of action is necessary to minimize the development of resistant strains of malaria, which is a big concern.

The dose and dosage schedule of the artemisinin combination therapy drugs may differ and the prescribed dosage should never be exceeded. As mentioned above, malaria should be treated under supervision of a doctor as the disease develops quickly, especially in children. Adverse effects may occur, and these should be discussed with the treating doctor. The choice of which treatment to use for malaria will also depend on a number of factors including resistance patterns of the area visited, age of the patient and underlying clinical conditions.



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