Anemia and transfusion requirements among Ugandan children with severe malaria treated with intravenous artesunate.

12 Dec 2019
Hawkes MT, Opoka RO, Conroy AL, Elphinstone RE, Hume HA, Namasopo S, Kain KC


Parenteral artesunate for the treatment of severe malaria in non-immune travelers is associated with late-onset hemolysis. In children in sub-Saharan Africa, the hematologic effects of malaria and artesunate are less well documented. Here we report a prospective case series of 91 children with severe malaria treated with parenteral artesunate, managed at a resource-poor hospital in Africa, with longitudinal data on hemoglobin (Hb), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), haptoglobin, and erythrocyte morphology. The median (range) age was 2 (1-8) years and 43 (47%) were female. The median (IQR) admission Hb level was 69 (55-78) g/L and 20 patients (22%) had severe malarial anemia (Hb < 50 g/L). During hospitalization, 69 patients (76%) received one or more blood transfusions. Fatal outcome in 8 patients was associated with severe anemia in 6/8 cases. Follow-up Hb measurement was performed on 35 patients (38%) at day 14 after initial hospital admission; the remaining patients had no clinical evidence of anemia at the follow-up visit. The convalescent Hb was median (range) 90 (60-138) g/L, which was significantly higher than the paired admission levels (median increase +28 g/L,  < .001). Evidence of hemolysis (elevated LDH and low haptoglobin) was common at admission and improved by day 14. No patient met the standardized definition of post-artemisinin delayed hemolysis (PADH). In this cohort of young children with severe malaria treated with artesunate, anemia was common at admission, required one or more transfusions in a majority of patients, and markers of hemolysis had normalized by day 14.