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Malaria, Therapy, Plasmodium Phalciparum
Malaria still claims a heavy toll of deaths and disabilities even at the beginning of the third millennium. The inappropriate sequential use of drug monotherapy in the past has facilitated the spread of drug-resistant P. falciparum, and to a lesser extend P. vivax, strains in most of the malaria endemic areas, rendering most anti-malarial ineffective. In the last decade, a new combination strategy based on artemisinin derivatives (ACT) has become the standard of treatment for most P. falciparum malaria infections. This strategy could prevent the selection of resistant strains by rapidly decreasing the parasitic burden (by the artemisinin derivative, mostly artesunate) and exposing the residual parasite to effective concentrations of the partner drug. The widespread use of this strategy is somehow constrained by cost and by the inappropriate use of artemisinin, with possible impact on resistance, as already sporadically observed in South East Asia. Parenteral artesunate has now become the standard of care for severe malaria, even if quinine still retains its value in case artesunate is not immediately available. The appropriateness of pre-referral use of suppository artesunate is under close monitoring, while waiting for an effective anti-malarial vaccine to be made available.