Impact of the large-scale deployment of artemether/lumefantrine on the malaria disease burden in Africa: case studies of South Africa, Zambia and Ethiopia

Journal Article


Journal Title

Malaria Journal

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

BioMed Central Ltd


University of Cape Town

Malaria is one of the most significant causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Every year, nearly one million deaths result from malaria infection. Malaria can be controlled in endemic countries by using artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) in combination with indoor residual spraying (IRS) and insecticide-treated nets (ITNs). At least 40 malaria-endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa now recommend the use of ACT as first-line treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria as a cornerstone of their malaria case management. The scaling up of malaria control strategies in Zambia has dramatically reduced the burden of malaria. Zambia was the first African country to adopt artemether/lumefantrine (AL; Coartem(R)) as first-line therapy in national malaria treatment guidelines in 2002. Further, the vector control with IRS and ITNs was also scaled up. By 2008, the rates of in-patient malaria cases and deaths decreased by 61% and 66%, respectively, compared with the 2001-2002 reference period.Treatment with AL as first-line therapy against a malaria epidemic in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, in combination with strengthening of vector control, caused the number of malaria-related outpatient cases and hospital admissions to each fall by 99% from 2001 to 2003, and malaria-related deaths decreased by 97% over the same period. A prospective study also showed that gametocyte development was prevented in all patients receiving AL. This reduction in malaria morbidity has been sustained over the past seven years.AL was introduced as first-line anti-malarial treatment in 2004 in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. During a major malaria epidemic from May-October 2005, the district in which local community health workers were operating had half the rate of malaria-related deaths compared with the district in which AL was only available in state health facilities. Over the two-year study period, the community-based deployment of AL significantly lowered the risk of malaria-specific mortality by 37%. Additionally, the malaria parasite reservoir was three-fold lower in the intervention district than in the control district during the 2005 high-transmission season.Artemisinin-based combination therapy has made a substantial contribution to reducing the burden of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.