Positive direct antiglobulin test in post-artesunate delayed haemolysis: more than a coincidence?
Delayed haemolysis is a frequent adverse event after treatment with artesunate (AS). Removing once-infected "pitted" erythrocytes by the spleen is the most accepted mechanism of haemolysis in these cases. However, an increasing number of cases with positive direct antiglobulin test (DAT) haemolysis after AS have been reported.
All malaria cases seen at Hospital Clinic of Barcelona between 2015 and 2017 were retrospectively reviewed. Clinical, parasitological and laboratory data from patients treated with intravenous artesunate-specifically looking for delayed haemolysis and DAT-was collected.
Among the 36 severe malaria patients treated with artesunate at the hospital, 10 (27.8%) developed post-artesunate delayed haemolysis. Out of these, DAT was performed in six, being positive in four of them (at least 40%). DAT was positive only for complement-without IgG-suggesting drug-dependent immune-haemolytic anaemia of the immune-complex type. Three of the four patients were treated with corticosteroids and two also received blood transfusion, with a complete recovery.
Drug-induced auto-immune phenomena in post-artesunate delayed haemolysis may be underreported and must be considered. The role of corticosteroids should be reassessed.