In silico investigation of the decline in clinical efficacy of artemisinin combination therapies due to increasing artemisinin and partner drug resistance

Sophie G. Zaloumis, Pengxing Cao, Saber Dini, Miles P. Davenport, Deborah Cromer, David S. Khoury, Freya J.I. Fowkes, James M. McCaw, Julie A. Simpson

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Antimalarial treatment currently relies on an artemisinin derivative and a longer-acting partner drug. With the emergence of resistance to the artemisinin derivatives and the potential pressure this exerts on the partner drugs, the impact of resistance to each drug on efficacy needs to be investigated. An in silico exploration of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine and mefloquine-artesunate, two artemisinin-based combination therapies that are commonly used in Southeast Asia, was performed. The percentage of treatment failures was simulated from a within-host pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PKPD) model, assuming that parasites developed increasing levels of (i) artemisinin derivative resistance or (ii) concomitant resistance to both the artemisinin derivative and the partner drug. Because the exact nature of how resistant Plasmodium falciparum parasites respond to treatment is unknown, we examined the impact on treatment failure rates of artemisinin resistance that (i) reduced the maximal killing rate, (ii) increased the concentration of drug required for 50% killing, or (iii) shortened the window of parasite stages that were susceptible to artemisinin derivatives until the drugs had no effect on the ring stages. The loss of the ring-stage activity of the artemisinin derivative caused the greatest increase in the treatment failure rate, and this result held irrespective of whether partner drug resistance was assumed to be present or not. To capture the uncertainty regarding how artemisinin derivative and partner drug resistance affects the assumed concentration-killing effect relationship, a variety of changes to this relationship should be considered when using within-host PKPD models to simulate clinical outcomes to guide treatment strategies for resistant infections.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01292-18
Number of pages10
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Antimalarial combination therapy
  • Artemisinin resistance
  • Malaria
  • Partner drug resistance
  • Pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modeling
  • Within-host modeling

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