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BACKGROUND: WHO recommends gametocytocidal, single low-dose primaquine for blocking the transmission of Plasmodium falciparum; however, safety concerns have hampered the implementation of this strategy in sub-Saharan Africa. We aimed to investigate the safety of age-dosed, single low-dose primaquine in children from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. METHODS: We conducted this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, non-inferiority trial at the Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, Mbale, Uganda, and the Kinshasa Mahidol Oxford Research Unit, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Children aged between 6 months and 11 years with acute uncomplicated P falciparum infection and haemoglobin concentrations of at least 6 g/dL were enrolled. Patients were excluded if they had a comorbid illness requiring inpatient treatment, were taking haemolysing drugs for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, were allergic to the study drugs, or were enrolled in another clinical trial. G6PD status was defined by genotyping for the G6PD c.202T allele, the cause of the G6PD-deficient A- variant. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive single low-dose primaquine combined with either artemether-lumefantrine or dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine, dosed by bodyweight. Randomisation was stratified by age and G6PD status. The primary endpoint was the development of profound (haemoglobin <4 g/dL) or severe (haemoglobin <5 g/dL) anaemia with severity features, within 21 days of treatment. Analysis was by intention to treat. The sample size assumed an incidence of 1·5% in the placebo group and a 3% non-inferiority margin. The trial is registered at ISRCTN, 11594437, and is closed to new participants. FINDINGS: Participants were recruited at the Mbale Regional Referral Hospital between Dec 18, 2017, and Oct 7, 2019, and at the Kinshasa Mahidol Oxford Research Unit between July 17, 2017, and Oct 5, 2019. 4620 patients were assessed for eligibility. 3483 participants were excluded, most owing to negative rapid diagnostic test or negative malaria slide (n=2982). 1137 children with a median age of 5 years were enrolled and randomly assigned (286 to the artemether-lumefantrine plus single low-dose primaquine group, 286 to the artemether-lumefantrine plus placebo group, 283 to the dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine plus single low-dose primaquine group, and 282 to the dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine plus placebo group). Genotyping of G6PD identified 239 G6PD-c.202T hemizygous males and 45 G6PD-c.202T homozygous females (defining the G6PD-deficient group), 119 heterozygous females, 418 G6PD-c.202C normal males and 299 G6PD-c.202C normal females (defining the non-G6PD-deficient group), and 17 children of unknown status. 67 patients were lost to follow-up and four patients withdrew during the study-these numbers were similar between groups. No participants developed profound anaemia and three developed severe anaemia: from the G6PD-deficient group, none (0%) of 133 patients who received placebo and one (0·66%) of 151 patients who received primaquine (difference -0·66%, 95% CI -1·96 to 0·63; p=0·35); and from the non-G6PD-deficient group, one (0·23%) of 430 patients who received placebo and one (0·25%) of 407 patients who received primaquine (-0·014%, -0·68 to 0·65; p=0·97). INTERPRETATION: Gametocytocidal, age-dosed, single low-dose primaquine was well tolerated in children from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who were infected with P falciparum, and the safety profile of this treatment was similar to that of the placebo. These data support the wider implementation of single low-dose primaquine in Africa. FUNDING: UK Government Department for International Development, UK Medical Research Council, UK National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust Joint Global Health Trials Scheme.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Infect Dis

Publication Date





471 - 483


Male, Female, Humans, Child, Infant, Primaquine, Antimalarials, Plasmodium falciparum, Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Artemether, Artemether, Lumefantrine Drug Combination, Malaria, Falciparum, Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase, Hemoglobins, World Health Organization