A new combination treatment for malaria is as effective as the "gold standard" therapy for the disease, but only needs to be taken once a day rather than twice, The Lancet reported on Friday.
The new treatment, combining pyronaridine and artesunate, was tested at seven sites in Africa and three in Southeast Asia alongside the standard drugs, artemether and lumefantrine.
A total of 1,272 malaria patients were enrolled, with 849 randomly assigned to pyronaridine-artesunate, which was taken once a day over three days, and 423 to artemether-lumefantrine, taken twice daily, also for three days.
Both regimens were equally effective in clearing out malarial parasites in the blood at a 28-day mark, and had an equal number of reported side effects.
Raised levels of liver enzymes occurred among the pyronaridine-artesunate group, but these episodes were "mild and transient," says the medical journal.
Given that pyronaridine-artesunate costs less than one dollar to treat an adult and less than 50 cents for a child, the treatment should be incorporated the drug arsenal against malaria, the study suggests.
Both combination treatments are types of artemisinin, whose active ingredient derives from a plant called Artemesia annua, also known as qinghaosu or sweet wormwood.
Its success against malarial parasites was first found centuries ago in ancient China but was rediscovered by Chinese medical researchers in the early 1970s.
Malaria claims the lives of around 865,000 people each year, 85 percent of them children, according to the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO).