Scientists have found that antimalarial drug artesunate, which is derived from herbs used in Chinese medicine, is more effective than quinine at preventing death in patients with severe malaria.
Severe malaria occurs when the disease affects the function of vital organs. It is associated with rarer cerebral malaria, which affects the brain and can lead to long-term disability.
Artesunate was recommended as the preferred treatment for adults with severe malaria by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2006, but there was insufficient evidence at the time to recommend a change from the standard treatment of quinine in children.
Cochrane researchers updated the review of artesunate by adding a new large multicentre trial of African children in 2010 to the existing 8 trials.
The review now includes a total of 1664 adults and 5765 children, from a variety of settings across Africa and Asia.
According to the results, taking artesunate reduces the risk of death by 39 percent in adults and 24percent in children compared to quinine.
In adults, deaths caused by severe malaria were reduced from 241 per 1000 with quinine to 147 with artesunate. In children, deaths were reduced from 108 per 1000 with quinine to 83 with artesunate.