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Artesunate, the recommended drug for severe malaria, rapidly clears the malaria parasite from infected patients but frequently induces anemia-called post-artesunate delayed hemolysis (PADH)-for which a simple predictive test is urgently needed. The underlying event in PADH is the expulsion of artesunate-exposed parasites from their host erythrocytes by pitting. We show that the histidine-rich protein 2 (HRP2) of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum persists in the circulation of artesunate-treated malaria patients in Bangladesh and in French travelers who became infected with malaria in Africa. HRP2 persisted in whole blood (not plasma) of artesunate-treated patients with malaria at higher levels compared to quinine-treated patients. Using an optimized membrane permeabilization method, HRP2 was observed by immunofluorescence, Western blotting, and electron microscopy to persist in once-infected red blood cells from artesunate-treated malaria patients. HRP2 was deposited at the membrane of once-infected red blood cells in a pattern similar to that for ring erythrocyte surface antigen (RESA), a parasite invasion marker. On the basis of these observations, we developed a semiquantitative titration method using a widely available HRP2-based rapid diagnostic dipstick test. Positivity on this test using a 1:500 dilution of whole blood from artesunate-treated patients with malaria collected shortly after parasite clearance predicted subsequent PADH with 89% sensitivity and 73% specificity. These results suggest that adapting an existing HRP2-based rapid diagnostic dipstick test may enable prediction of PADH several days before it occurs in artesunate-treated patients with malaria.

Original publication

DOI

10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf9377

Type

Journal article

Journal

Sci Transl Med

Publication Date

05/07/2017

Volume

9

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Antigens, Protozoan, Artemisinins, Artesunate, Cytosol, Demography, Erythrocyte Membrane, Erythrocytes, Female, Hemolysis, Humans, Malaria, Male, Middle Aged, Plasmodium falciparum, Protozoan Proteins, Quinine, Young Adult