Dr Mayfong Mayxay

Research Area: Microbiology
Technology Exchange: Medical statistics
Scientific Themes: Tropical Medicine & Global Health and Clinical Trials & Epidemiology
Keywords: Dengue, Japanese encephalitis and Antimalarial drug resistance

Mayfong Mayxay has been working for LOMWRU since the establishment of the Unit in 2000. He has led clinical trials of antimalarials and other field clinical research in Laos since 2000 and between 2002 and 2006, under the supervision of Prof. Nick White and Prof. Paul Newton, he carried out his Wellcome fellowship training in clinical tropical medicine with the research entitled “Clinical and laboratory studies to guide Lao national antimalarial drug policy” which was associated with Mahidol and Oxford Universities. The results from his research had led to the change of the Lao national policy for uncomplicated falciparum malaria treatment from chloroquine and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine to ACTs (artemether-lumefantrine) in 2005. 

Mayfong is the Head of the Field Research of LOMWRU and Vice-Dean for Research at the Faculty of Postgraduate Studies and Associate Professor, Lao University of Health Sciences. He has also been an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow in Tropical Medicine at Oxford since 2009. His particular research interests include antimalarial drug resistance, causes of fever, dengue, rickettsial infections, Japanese encephalitis virus infection, and infantile beriberi. 

There are no collaborations listed for this principal investigator.

WWARN K13 Genotype-Phenotype Study Group. 2019. Association of mutations in the Plasmodium falciparum Kelch13 gene (Pf3D7_1343700) with parasite clearance rates after artemisinin-based treatments-a WWARN individual patient data meta-analysis. BMC Med, 17 (1), pp. 1. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Plasmodium falciparum infections with slow parasite clearance following artemisinin-based therapies are widespread in the Greater Mekong Subregion. A molecular marker of the slow clearance phenotype has been identified: single genetic changes within the propeller region of the Kelch13 protein (pfk13; Pf3D7_1343700). Global searches have identified almost 200 different non-synonymous mutant pfk13 genotypes. Most mutations occur at low prevalence and have uncertain functional significance. To characterize the impact of different pfk13 mutations on parasite clearance, we conducted an individual patient data meta-analysis of the associations between parasite clearance half-life (PC1/2) and pfk13 genotype based on a large set of individual patient records from Asia and Africa. METHODS: A systematic literature review following the PRISMA protocol was conducted to identify studies published between 2000 and 2017 which included frequent parasite counts and pfk13 genotyping. Four databases (Ovid Medline, PubMed, Ovid Embase, and Web of Science Core Collection) were searched. Eighteen studies (15 from Asia, 2 from Africa, and one multicenter study with sites on both continents) met inclusion criteria and were shared. Associations between the log transformed PC1/2 values and pfk13 genotype were assessed using multivariable regression models with random effects for study site. RESULTS: Both the pfk13 genotypes and the PC1/2 were available from 3250 (95%) patients (n = 3012 from Asia (93%), n = 238 from Africa (7%)). Among Asian isolates, all pfk13 propeller region mutant alleles observed in five or more specific isolates were associated with a 1.5- to 2.7-fold longer geometric mean PC1/2 compared to the PC1/2 of wild type isolates (all p ≤ 0.002). In addition, mutant allele E252Q located in the P. falciparum region of pfk13 was associated with 1.5-fold (95%CI 1.4-1.6) longer PC1/2. None of the isolates from four countries in Africa showed a significant difference between the PC1/2 of parasites with or without pfk13 propeller region mutations. Previously, the association of six pfk13 propeller mutant alleles with delayed parasite clearance had been confirmed. This analysis demonstrates that 15 additional pfk13 alleles are associated strongly with the slow-clearing phenotype in Southeast Asia. CONCLUSION: Pooled analysis associated 20 pfk13 propeller region mutant alleles with the slow clearance phenotype, including 15 mutations not confirmed previously.

Pell CL, Adhikari B, Myo Thwin M, Kajeechiwa L, Nosten S, Nosten FH, Sahan KM, Smithuis FM, Nguyen T-N, Hien TT et al. 2019. Community engagement, social context and coverage of mass anti-malarial administration: Comparative findings from multi-site research in the Greater Mekong sub-Region. PLoS One, 14 (3), pp. e0214280. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Between 2013 and 2017, targeted malaria elimination (TME), a package of interventions that includes mass drug administration (MDA)-was piloted in communities with reservoirs of asymptomatic P. falciparum across the Greater Mekong sub-Region (GMS). Coverage in target communities is a key determinant of the effectiveness of MDA. Drawing on mixed methods research conducted alongside TME pilot studies, this article examines the impact of the community engagement, local social context and study design on MDA coverage. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Qualitative and quantitative data were collected using questionnaire-based surveys, semi-structured and in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, informal conversations, and observations of study activities. Over 1500 respondents were interviewed in Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Interview topics included attitudes to malaria and experiences of MDA. Overall coverage of mass anti-malarial administration was high, particularly participation in at least a single round (85%). Familiarity with and concern about malaria prompted participation in MDA; as did awareness of MDA and familiarity with the aim of eliminating malaria. Fear of adverse events and blood draws discouraged people. Hence, community engagement activities sought to address these concerns but their impact was mediated by the trust relationships that study staff could engender in communities. In contexts of weak healthcare infrastructure and (cash) poverty, communities valued the study's ancillary care and the financial compensation. However, coverage did not necessarily decrease in the absence of cash compensation. Community dynamics, affected by politics, village conformity, and household decision-making also affected coverage. CONCLUSIONS: The experimental nature of TME presented particular challenges to achieving high coverage. Nonetheless, the findings reflect those from studies of MDA under implementation conditions and offer useful guidance for potential regional roll-out of MDA: it is key to understand target communities and provide appropriate information in tailored ways, using community engagement that engenders trust.

von Seidlein L, Peto TJ, Landier J, Nguyen T-N, Tripura R, Phommasone K, Pongvongsa T, Lwin KM, Keereecharoen L, Kajeechiwa L et al. 2019. The impact of targeted malaria elimination with mass drug administrations on falciparum malaria in Southeast Asia: A cluster randomised trial. PLoS Med, 16 (2), pp. e1002745. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The emergence and spread of multidrug-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) threatens global malaria elimination efforts. Mass drug administration (MDA), the presumptive antimalarial treatment of an entire population to clear the subclinical parasite reservoir, is a strategy to accelerate malaria elimination. We report a cluster randomised trial to assess the effectiveness of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) MDA in reducing falciparum malaria incidence and prevalence in 16 remote village populations in Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Lao People's Democratic Republic, where artemisinin resistance is prevalent. METHODS AND FINDINGS: After establishing vector control and community-based case management and following intensive community engagement, we used restricted randomisation within village pairs to select 8 villages to receive early DP MDA and 8 villages as controls for 12 months, after which the control villages received deferred DP MDA. The MDA comprised 3 monthly rounds of 3 daily doses of DP and, except in Cambodia, a single low dose of primaquine. We conducted exhaustive cross-sectional surveys of the entire population of each village at quarterly intervals using ultrasensitive quantitative PCR to detect Plasmodium infections. The study was conducted between May 2013 and July 2017. The investigators randomised 16 villages that had a total of 8,445 residents at the start of the study. Of these 8,445 residents, 4,135 (49%) residents living in 8 villages, plus an additional 288 newcomers to the villages, were randomised to receive early MDA; 3,790 out of the 4,423 (86%) participated in at least 1 MDA round, and 2,520 out of the 4,423 (57%) participated in all 3 rounds. The primary outcome, P. falciparum prevalence by month 3 (M3), fell by 92% (from 5.1% [171/3,340] to 0.4% [12/2,828]) in early MDA villages and by 29% (from 7.2% [246/3,405] to 5.1% [155/3,057]) in control villages. Over the following 9 months, the P. falciparum prevalence increased to 3.3% (96/2,881) in early MDA villages and to 6.1% (128/2,101) in control villages (adjusted incidence rate ratio 0.41 [95% CI 0.20 to 0.84]; p = 0.015). Individual protection was proportional to the number of completed MDA rounds. Of 221 participants with subclinical P. falciparum infections who participated in MDA and could be followed up, 207 (94%) cleared their infections, including 9 of 10 with artemisinin- and piperaquine-resistant infections. The DP MDAs were well tolerated; 6 severe adverse events were detected during the follow-up period, but none was attributable to the intervention. CONCLUSIONS: Added to community-based basic malaria control measures, 3 monthly rounds of DP MDA reduced the incidence and prevalence of falciparum malaria over a 1-year period in areas affected by artemisinin resistance. P. falciparum infections returned during the follow-up period as the remaining infections spread and malaria was reintroduced from surrounding areas. Limitations of this study include a relatively small sample of villages, heterogeneity between villages, and mobility of villagers that may have limited the impact of the intervention. These results suggest that, if used as part of a comprehensive, well-organised, and well-resourced elimination programme, DP MDA can be a useful additional tool to accelerate malaria elimination. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01872702.

Pastorino B, Sengvilaipaseuth O, Chanthongthip A, Vongsouvath M, Souksakhone C, Mayxay M, Thirion L, Newton PN, de Lamballerie X, Dubot-Pérès A. 2019. Low Zika Virus Seroprevalence in Vientiane, Laos, 2003-2015. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 100 (3), pp. 639-642. | Show Abstract | Read more

Zika virus (ZIKV) has been presumed to be endemic in Southeast Asia (SEA), with a low rate of human infections. Although the first ZIKV evidence was obtained in the 1950s through serosurveys, the first laboratory-confirmed case was only detected in 2010 in Cambodia. The epidemiology of ZIKV in SEA remains uncertain because of the scarcity of available data. From 2016, subsequent to the large outbreaks in the Pacific and Latin America, several Asian countries started reporting increasing numbers of confirmed ZIKV patients, but no global epidemiological assessment is available to date. Here, with the aim of providing information on ZIKV circulation and population immunity, we conducted a seroprevalence study among blood donors in Vientiane, Laos. Sera from 359 asymptomatic consenting adult donors in 2003-2004 and 687 in 2015 were screened for anti-ZIKV IgG using NS1 ELISA assay (Euroimmun, Luebeck, Germany). Positive and equivocal samples were confirmed for anti-ZIKV-neutralizing antibodies by virus neutralization tests. Our findings suggest that ZIKV has been circulating in Vientiane over at least the last decade. Zika virus seroprevalence observed in the studied blood donors was low, 4.5% in 2003-2004 with an increase in 2015 to 9.9% (P = 0.002), possibly reflecting the increase of ZIKV incident cases reported over this period. We did not observe any significant difference in seroprevalence according to gender. With a low herd immunity in the Vientiane population, ZIKV represents a risk for future large-scale outbreaks. Implementation of a nationwide ZIKV surveillance network and epidemiological studies throughout the country is needed.

Bancone G, Menard D, Khim N, Kim S, Canier L, Nguong C, Phommasone K, Mayxay M, Dittrich S, Vongsouvath M et al. 2019. Molecular characterization and mapping of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) mutations in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Malar J, 18 (1), pp. 20. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Plasmodium vivax malaria elimination can only be achieved by the deployment of 8-aminoquinolines (primaquine and tafenoquine) in combination with ACT to kill both blood and liver-stage parasites. However, primaquine and the other 8-aminoquinolines cause dose-dependent haemolysis in subjects with G6PD deficiency, an X-linked disorder of red blood cells that is very common in populations living in tropical and subtropical areas. In order to inform safer use of 8-aminoquinolines in the Greater Mekong Subregion, a multi-centre study was carried out to assess the prevalence of G6PD deficiency and to identify the main G6PD variants in samples collected in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. METHODS: Blood samples were collected in the five countries during National Malaria Surveys or during Population Surveys. During Population Surveys samples were characterized for G6PD phenotype using the Fluorescent Spot Test. Samples were then genotyped for a panel of G6PD mutations. RESULTS: G6PD deficiency was found to be common in the region with an overall mean prevalence of deficient or mutated hemizygous males of 14.0%, ranging from a mean 7.3% in Thailand, 8.1% in Lao PDR, 8.9% in Vietnam, 15.8% in Myanmar and 18.8% in Cambodia. Mahidol and Viangchan mutations were the most common and widespread variants found among the nine investigated. CONCLUSIONS: Owing to the high prevalence of G6PD deficiency in the Greater Mekong Subregion, strategies for vivax malaria elimination should include point-of-care G6PD testing (both qualitative and quantitative) to allow safe and wide treatment with 8-aminoquinolines.

Wootton CI, Bell S, Philavanh A, Phommachack K, Soukavong M, Kidoikhammouan S, Walker SL, Mayxay M. 2018. Assessing skin disease and associated health-related quality of life in a rural Lao community. BMC Dermatol, 18 (1), pp. 11. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Skin diseases are common and often have an impact on an individual's health-related quality of life. In rural communities where access to healthcare may be limited and individuals rely on farming for food and income, the impact of skin diseases may be greater. The objectives for this study were to perform an assessment of skin disease prevalence in a rural village in Laos and assess the associated impact of any skin disease found using the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI). METHODS: A rural village was purposively selected and 340 participants examined by dermatologists over a four day period. Brief questionnaires were performed, followed by full body skin examinations and DLQI questionnaires completed were relevant. The data were analysed using chi square and Wilcoxon signed rank tests. RESULTS: One hundred and eighty-one participants were found to have a skin disease (53%). The six most common skin diseases were: eczema (22%), dermatophyte infections (19%), acne (10%), scabies infestation (9%), melasma (8%) and pityriasis versicolor (4%). Just over half of those with skin disease (51%) completed the DLQI, with scores ranging from 0 to 24. Those with skin problems on examination were significantly more likely to be farmers, have had a previous skin problem, be older or live in a smaller family. Conclusions This study represents the first formal documentation of skin disease prevalence in Laos and establishes the high rate of skin disease in the rural community and the associated impact these diseases have on health-related quality of life.

Zhu L, Tripathi J, Rocamora FM, Miotto O, van der Pluijm R, Voss TS, Mok S, Kwiatkowski DP, Nosten F, Day NPJ et al. 2018. The origins of malaria artemisinin resistance defined by a genetic and transcriptomic background. Nat Commun, 9 (1), pp. 5158. | Show Abstract | Read more

The predisposition of parasites acquiring artemisinin resistance still remains unclear beyond the mutations in Pfk13 gene and modulation of the unfolded protein response pathway. To explore the chain of casualty underlying artemisinin resistance, we reanalyze 773 P. falciparum isolates from TRACI-study integrating TWAS, GWAS, and eQTL analyses. We find the majority of P. falciparum parasites are transcriptomically converged within each geographic site with two broader physiological profiles across the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). We report 8720 SNP-expression linkages in the eastern GMS parasites and 4537 in the western. The minimal overlap between them suggests differential gene regulatory networks facilitating parasite adaptations to their unique host environments. Finally, we identify two genetic and physiological backgrounds associating with artemisinin resistance in the GMS, together with a farnesyltransferase protein and a thioredoxin-like protein which may act as vital intermediators linking the Pfk13 C580Y mutation to the prolonged parasite clearance time.

Pongvongsa T, Phommasone K, Adhikari B, Henriques G, Chotivanich K, Hanboonkunupakarn B, Mukaka M, Peerawaranun P, von Seidlein L, Day NPJ et al. 2018. The dynamic of asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infections following mass drug administrations with dihydroarteminisin-piperaquine plus a single low dose of primaquine in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Malar J, 17 (1), pp. 405. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The increase in multidrug resistant Plasmodium falciparum infections threatens the malaria elimination goals in countries within the Greater Mekong Sub-region. A multi-pronged approach assuring access to basic malaria control measures, including insecticide-treated bed nets and early diagnosis and treatment was followed by mass drug administrations (MDA) in southern Savannakhet Province, Laos. The main objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of mass drug administrations as well as their effects on the dynamic of asymptomatic P. falciparum infections in 4 malaria endemic villages. METHODS: Two villages were randomized to early MDA consisting of 3 rounds of a 3-day course of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine with a single low dose of primaquine. In the other 2 villages MDA was deferred by 1 year. A total of 1036 residents were enrolled in early MDA villages and 883 in control villages (deferred-MDA). Tri-monthly parasitaemia surveys using uPCR were conducted for a year in the 4 villages. RESULTS: Eighty-four percent (872/1036) of the residents participated in the MDAs, of whom 90% (781/872) completed 3 rounds of MDA (9 doses). In intervention villages, the prevalence of asymptomatic P. falciparum infections decreased by 85% after MDA from 4.8% (95% CI 3.4-6.4) at baseline (month 0 or M0) to 0.7% (95% CI 0.3-1.6) at month 12. In control villages there was a decrease of 33% in P. falciparum prevalence between M0: 17.5% (95% CI 15.9-20.3) and M12: 11.6% (95% CI 9.3-14.2). In bivariate and multivariate analyses P. falciparum infections were significantly reduced with early MDA (adjusted incidence rate ratios (AIRR): 0.08, CI 0.01-0.091) and completion of 3 MDA rounds (AIRR: 0.06; CI 0.01-0.66). A quarter of participants (226/872) reported adverse events of which 99% were mild. CONCLUSION: The study found a significant reduction in P. falciparum prevalence and incidence following MDA. MDA was safe, well tolerated, feasible, and achieved high population coverage and adherence. MDAs must be integrated in multi-pronged approaches such as vector control and preventive measures with a focus on specific risk groups such as mobile, migrant population and forest goers for a sustained period to eliminate the remaining parasite reservoirs. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01872702.

Bulterys PL, Bulterys MA, Phommasone K, Luangraj M, Mayxay M, Kloprogge S, Miliya T, Vongsouvath M, Newton PN, Phetsouvanh R et al. 2018. Climatic drivers of melioidosis in Laos and Cambodia: a 16-year case series analysis. Lancet Planet Health, 2 (8), pp. e334-e343. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Burkholderia pseudomallei is the cause of melioidosis, a serious and difficult to treat infection that is endemic throughout the tropics. Melioidosis incidence is highly seasonal. We aimed to identify the climatic drivers of infection and to shed light on modes of transmission and potential preventive strategies. METHODS: We examined the records of patients diagnosed with melioidosis at the Microbiology Laboratory of Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane, Laos, between October, 1999, and August, 2015, and all patients with culture-confirmed melioidosis presenting to the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia, between February, 2009, and December, 2013. We also examined local temperature, humidity, precipitation, visibility, and wind data for the corresponding time periods. We estimated the B pseudomallei incubation period by examining profile likelihoods for hypothetical exposure-to-presentation delays. FINDINGS: 870 patients were diagnosed with melioidosis in Laos and 173 patients were diagnosed with melioidosis in Cambodia during the study periods. Melioidosis cases were significantly associated with humidity (p<0·0001), low visibility (p<0·0001), and maximum wind speeds (p<0·0001) in Laos, and humidity (p=0·010), rainy days (p=0·015), and maximum wind speed (p=0·0070) in Cambodia. Compared with adults, children were at significantly higher odds of infection during highly humid months (odds ratio 2·79, 95% CI 1·83-4·26). Lung and disseminated infections were more common during windy months. The maximum likelihood estimate of the incubation period was 1 week (95% CI 0-2). INTERPRETATION: The results of this study demonstrate a significant seasonal burden of melioidosis among adults and children in Laos and Cambodia. Our findings highlight the risks of infection during highly humid and windy conditions, and suggest a need for increased awareness among at-risk individuals, such as children. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust.

Newton PN, Keolouangkhot V, Lee SJ, Choumlivong K, Sisouphone S, Choumlivong K, Vongsouvath M, Mayxay M, Chansamouth V, Davong V et al. 2019. A Prospective, Open-label, Randomized Trial of Doxycycline Versus Azithromycin for the Treatment of Uncomplicated Murine Typhus. Clin Infect Dis, 68 (5), pp. 738-747. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Murine typhus, or infection with Rickettsia typhi, is a global but neglected disease without randomized clinical trials to guide antibiotic therapy. METHODS: A prospective, open, randomized trial was conducted in nonpregnant, consenting inpatient adults with rapid diagnostic test evidence of uncomplicated murine typhus at 2 hospitals in Vientiane, Laos. Patients were randomized to 7 days (D7) or 3 days (D3) of oral doxycycline or 3 days of oral azithromycin (A3). Primary outcome measures were fever clearance time and frequencies of treatment failure and relapse. RESULTS: Between 2004 and 2009, the study enrolled 216 patients (72 per arm); 158 (73.2%) had serology/polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-confirmed murine typhus, and 52 (24.1%) were R. typhi PCR positive. The risk of treatment failure was greater for regimen A3 (22.5%; 16 of 71 patients) than for D3 (4.2%; 3 of 71) or D7 (1.4%; 1 of 71) (P < .001). Among R. typhi PCR-positive patients, the area under the time-temperature curve and the fever clearance time were significantly higher for A3 than for D3 (1.8- and 1.9-fold higher, respectively; P = .005) and D7 (1.5- and 1.6-fold higher; P = .02). No patients returned with PCR-confirmed R. typhi relapse. CONCLUSION: In Lao adults, azithromycin is inferior to doxycycline as oral therapy for uncomplicated murine typhus. For doxycycline, 3- and 7-day regimens have similar efficacy. Azithromycin use in murine typhus should be reconsidered. Investigation of genomic and phenotypic markers of R. typhi azithromycin resistance is needed. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN47812566.

Saralamba N, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Smithuis F, Nosten F, Archasuksan L, Pukrittayakamee S, White NJ, Day NPJ, Dondorp AM, Imwong M. 2018. Genetic polymorphisms in the circumsporozoite protein of Plasmodium malariae show a geographical bias. Malar J, 17 (1), pp. 269. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Plasmodium malariae is characterized by its long asymptomatic persistence in the human host. The epidemiology of P. malariae is incompletely understood and is hampered by the limited knowledge of genetic polymorphisms. Previous reports from Africa have shown heterogeneity within the P. malariae circumsporozoite protein (pmcsp) gene. However, comparative studies from Asian countries are lacking. Here, the genetic polymorphisms in pmcsp of Asian isolates have been characterized. METHODS: Blood samples from 89 symptomatic P. malariae-infected patients were collected, from Thailand (n = 43), Myanmar (n = 40), Lao PDR (n = 5), and Bangladesh (n = 1). pmcsp was amplified using semi-nested PCR before sequencing. The resulting 89 pmcsp sequences were analysed together with 58 previously published pmcsp sequences representing African countries using BioEdit, MEGA6, and DnaSP. RESULTS: Polymorphisms identified in pmcsp were grouped into 3 populations: Thailand, Myanmar, and Kenya. The nucleotide diversity and the ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitutions (dN/dS) in Thailand and Myanmar were higher compared with that in Kenya. Phylogenetic analysis showed clustering of pmcsp sequences according to the origin of isolates (Asia vs. Africa). High genetic differentiation (Fst = 0.404) was observed between P. malariae isolates from Asian and African countries. Sequence analysis of pmcsp showed the presence of tetrapeptide repeat units of NAAG, NDAG, and NAPG in the central repeat region of the gene. Plasmodium malariae isolates from Asian countries carried fewer copies of NAAG compared with that from African countries. The NAPG repeat was only observed in Asian isolates. Additional analysis of 2 T-cell epitopes, Th2R and Th3R, showed limited heterogeneity in P. malariae populations. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides valuable information on the genetic polymorphisms in pmcsp isolates from Asia and advances our understanding of P. malariae population in Asia and Africa. Polymorphisms in the central repeat region of pmcsp showed association with the geographical origin of P. malariae isolates and can be potentially used as a marker for genetic epidemiology of P. malariae population.

Henriques G, Phommasone K, Tripura R, Peto TJ, Raut S, Snethlage C, Sambo I, Sanann N, Nguon C, Adhikari B et al. 2018. Comparison of glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase status by fluorescent spot test and rapid diagnostic test in Lao PDR and Cambodia. Malar J, 17 (1), pp. 243. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is the most common enzymopathy worldwide. Primaquine is the only licensed drug that effectively removes Plasmodium vivax hypnozoites from the human host and prevents relapse. While well tolerated by most recipients, primaquine can cause haemolysis in G6PD deficient individuals and is, therefore, underused. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) could permit ascertainment of G6PD status outside of laboratory settings and hence safe treatment in remote areas. The performance of the fluorescent spot test (Trinity, Ireland; FST) and a G6PD RDT (Carestart, USA) against spectrophotometry were assessed. METHODS: Participants were enrolled during cross-sectional surveys in Laos and by purposive sampling in Cambodia. FST and RDT were performed during village surveys and 3 mL of venous blood was collected for subsequent G6PD measurement by spectrophotometry. RESULTS: A total of 757 participants were enrolled in Laos and 505 in Cambodia. FST and RDT performed best at 30% cut-off activity and performed significantly better in Laos than in Cambodia. When defining intermediate results as G6PD deficient, the FST had a sensitivity of 100% (95%CI 90-100) and specificity of 90% (95%CI 87.7-92.2) in Laos and sensitivity of 98% (94.1-99.6) and specificity of 71% (95%CI 66-76) in Cambodia (p < 0.001). The RDT had sensitivity and specificity of 100% (95%CI 90-100) and 99% (95%CI 97-99) in Laos and sensitivity and specificity of 91% (86-96) and 93% (90-95) in Cambodia (p < 0.001). The RDT performed significantly better (all p < 0.05) than the FST when intermediate FST results were defined as G6PD deficient. CONCLUSION: The interpretation of RDT results requires some training but is a good alternative to the FST. Trial registration clinicaltrials.gov; NCT01872702; 06/27/2013; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01872702.

Kloprogge F, Workman L, Borrmann S, Tékété M, Lefèvre G, Hamed K, Piola P, Ursing J, Kofoed PE, Mårtensson A et al. 2018. Artemether-lumefantrine dosing for malaria treatment in young children and pregnant women: A pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic meta-analysis. PLoS Med, 15 (6), pp. e1002579. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The fixed dose combination of artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is the most widely used treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Relatively lower cure rates and lumefantrine levels have been reported in young children and in pregnant women during their second and third trimester. The aim of this study was to investigate the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of lumefantrine and the pharmacokinetic properties of its metabolite, desbutyl-lumefantrine, in order to inform optimal dosing regimens in all patient populations. METHODS AND FINDINGS: A search in PubMed, Embase, ClinicalTrials.gov, Google Scholar, conference proceedings, and the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) pharmacology database identified 31 relevant clinical studies published between 1 January 1990 and 31 December 2012, with 4,546 patients in whom lumefantrine concentrations were measured. Under the auspices of WWARN, relevant individual concentration-time data, clinical covariates, and outcome data from 4,122 patients were made available and pooled for the meta-analysis. The developed lumefantrine population pharmacokinetic model was used for dose optimisation through in silico simulations. Venous plasma lumefantrine concentrations 7 days after starting standard AL treatment were 24.2% and 13.4% lower in children weighing <15 kg and 15-25 kg, respectively, and 20.2% lower in pregnant women compared with non-pregnant adults. Lumefantrine exposure decreased with increasing pre-treatment parasitaemia, and the dose limitation on absorption of lumefantrine was substantial. Simulations using the lumefantrine pharmacokinetic model suggest that, in young children and pregnant women beyond the first trimester, lengthening the dose regimen (twice daily for 5 days) and, to a lesser extent, intensifying the frequency of dosing (3 times daily for 3 days) would be more efficacious than using higher individual doses in the current standard treatment regimen (twice daily for 3 days). The model was developed using venous plasma data from patients receiving intact tablets with fat, and evaluations of alternative dosing regimens were consequently only representative for venous plasma after administration of intact tablets with fat. The absence of artemether-dihydroartemisinin data limited the prediction of parasite killing rates and recrudescent infections. Thus, the suggested optimised dosing schedule was based on the pharmacokinetic endpoint of lumefantrine plasma exposure at day 7. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that revised AL dosing regimens for young children and pregnant women would improve drug exposure but would require longer or more complex schedules. These dosing regimens should be evaluated in prospective clinical studies to determine whether they would improve cure rates, demonstrate adequate safety, and thereby prolong the useful therapeutic life of this valuable antimalarial treatment.

Dittrich S, Boutthasavong L, Keokhamhoung D, Phuklia W, Craig SB, Tulsiani SM, Burns M-A, Weier SL, Dance DAB, Davong V et al. 2018. A Prospective Hospital Study to Evaluate the Diagnostic Accuracy of Rapid Diagnostic Tests for the Early Detection of Leptospirosis in Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 98 (4), pp. 1056-1060. | Show Abstract | Read more

Leptospirosis is a globally important cause of acute febrile illness, and a common cause of non-malarial fever in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Simple rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are needed to enable health-care workers, particularly in low resource settings, to diagnose leptospirosis early and give timely targeted treatment. This study compared four commercially available RDTs to detect human IgM against Leptospira spp. in a head-to-head prospective evaluation in Mahosot Hospital, Lao PDR. Patients with an acute febrile illness consistent with leptospirosis (N = 695) were included in the study during the 2014 rainy season. Samples were tested with four RDTs: ("Test-it" [Life Assay, Cape Town, South Africa; N = 418]; "Leptorapide" [Linnodee, Ballyclare, Northern Ireland; N = 492]; "Dual Path Platform" [DPP] [Chembio, Medford, NY; N = 530]; and "SD-IgM" [Standard Diagnostics, Yongin, South Korea; N = 481]). Diagnostic performance characteristics were calculated and compared with a composite reference standard combining polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (rrs), microscopic agglutination tests (MATs), and culture. Of all patients investigated, 39/695 (5.6%) were positive by culture, PCR, or MAT. The sensitivity and specificity of the RDTs ranged greatly from 17.9% to 63.6% and 62.1% to 96.8%, respectively. None of the investigated RDTs reached a sensitivity or specificity of > 90% for detecting Leptospira infections on admission. In conclusion, our investigation highlights the challenges associated with Leptospira diagnostics, particularly in populations with multiple exposures. These findings emphasize the need for extensive prospective evaluations in multiple endemic settings to establish the value of rapid tools for diagnosing fevers to allow targeting of antibiotics.

Haenssgen MJ, Charoenboon N, Zanello G, Mayxay M, Reed-Tsochas F, Jones COH, Kosaikanont R, Praphattong P, Manohan P, Lubell Y et al. 2018. Antibiotics and activity spaces: protocol of an exploratory study of behaviour, marginalisation and knowledge diffusion. BMJ Glob Health, 3 (2), pp. e000621. | Show Abstract | Read more

Background: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health priority. Leading UK and global strategy papers to fight AMR recognise its social and behavioural dimensions, but current policy responses to improve the popular use of antimicrobials (eg, antibiotics) are limited to education and awareness-raising campaigns. In response to conceptual, methodological and empirical weaknesses of this approach, we study people's antibiotic-related health behaviour through three research questions.RQ1: What are the manifestations and determinants of problematic antibiotic use in patients' healthcare-seeking pathways?RQ2: Will people's exposure to antibiotic awareness activities entail changed behaviours that diffuse or dissipate within a network of competing healthcare practices?RQ3: Which proxy indicators facilitate the detection of problematic antibiotic behaviours across and within communities? Methods: We apply an interdisciplinary analytical framework that draws on the public health, medical anthropology, sociology and development economics literature. Our research involves social surveys of treatment-seeking behaviour among rural dwellers in northern Thailand (Chiang Rai) and southern Lao PDR (Salavan). We sample approximately 4800 adults to produce district-level representative and social network data. Additional 60 cognitive interviews facilitate survey instrument development and data interpretation. Our survey data analysis techniques include event sequence analysis (RQ1), multilevel regression (RQ1-3), social network analysis (RQ2) and latent class analysis (RQ3). Discussion: Social research in AMR is nascent, but our unprecedentedly detailed data on microlevel treatment-seeking behaviour can contribute an understanding of behaviour beyond awareness and free choice, highlighting, for example, decision-making constraints, problems of marginalisation and lacking access to healthcare and competing ideas about desirable behaviour. Trial registration number: NCT03241316; Pre-results.

Castonguay-Vanier J, Klitting R, Sengvilaipaseuth O, Piorkowski G, Baronti C, Sibounheuang B, Vongsouvath M, Chanthongthip A, Thongpaseuth S, Mayxay M et al. 2018. Molecular epidemiology of dengue viruses in three provinces of Lao PDR, 2006-2010. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 12 (1), pp. e0006203. | Show Abstract | Read more

Few data on dengue epidemiology are available for Lao PDR. Here, we provide information on the complexity of dengue epidemiology in the country, demonstrating dynamic circulation that varies over space and time, according to serotype. We recruited 1,912 consenting patients presenting with WHO dengue criteria at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane (central Laos), between 2006 and 2010. Between 2008 and 2010, 1,413 patients with undifferentiated fever were also recruited at Luang Namtha (LNT) Provincial Hospital (northern Laos) and 555 at Salavan (SV) Provincial Hospital (southern Laos). We report significant variations in Dengue virus (DENV) circulation between the three sites. Peaks of DENV infection were observed in the rainy seasons, although 11% of confirmed cases in the provinces and 4.6% in the capital were detected during the dry and cool seasons (between December and February). Four DENV serotypes were detected among the 867 RT-PCR positive patients: 76.9% DENV-1, 9.6% DENV-2, 7.7% DENV-4 and 5.3% DENV-3. DENV-1 was the predominant serotype throughout the study except in LNT in 2008 and 2009 when it was DENV-2. Before July 2009, DENV-2 was not detected in SV and only rarely detected in Vientiane. DENV-3 and DENV-4 were commonly detected in Vientiane, before 2008 for DENV-4 and after 2009 for DENV-3. The phylogenetic analyses of DENV envelope sequences suggest concurrent multiple introductions of new strains as well as active DENV circulation throughout Laos and with neighboring countries. It is therefore of great importance to develop and strengthen a year-round nation-wide surveillance network in order to collect data that would allow anticipation of public health issues caused by the occurrence of large dengue outbreaks.

Srisutham S, Saralamba N, Sriprawat K, Mayxay M, Smithuis F, Nosten F, Pukrittayakamee S, Day NPJ, Dondorp AM, Imwong M. 2018. Genetic diversity of three surface protein genes in Plasmodium malariae from three Asian countries. Malar J, 17 (1), pp. 24. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Genetic diversity of the three important antigenic proteins, namely thrombospondin-related anonymous protein (TRAP), apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1), and 6-cysteine protein (P48/45), all of which are found in various developmental stages of Plasmodium parasites is crucial for targeted vaccine development. While studies related to the genetic diversity of these proteins are available for Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, barely enough information exists regarding Plasmodium malariae. The present study aims to demonstrate the genetic variations existing among these three genes in P. malariae by analysing their diversity at nucleotide and protein levels. METHODS: Three surface protein genes were isolated from 45 samples collected in Thailand (N = 33), Myanmar (N = 8), and Lao PDR (N = 4), using conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. Then, the PCR products were sequenced and analysed using BioEdit, MEGA6, and DnaSP programs. RESULTS: The average pairwise nucleotide diversities (π) of P. malariae trap, ama1, and p48/45 were 0.00169, 0.00413, and 0.00029, respectively. The haplotype diversities (Hd) of P. malariae trap, ama1, and p48/45 were 0.919, 0.946, and 0.130, respectively. Most of the nucleotide substitutions were non-synonymous, which indicated that the genetic variations of these genes were maintained by positive diversifying selection, thus, suggesting their role as a potential target of protective immune response. Amino acid substitutions of P. malariae TRAP, AMA1, and P48/45 could be categorized to 17, 20, and 2 unique amino-acid variants, respectively. For further vaccine development, carboxyl terminal of P48/45 would be a good candidate according to conserved amino acid at low genetic diversity (π = 0.2-0.3). CONCLUSIONS: High mutational diversity was observed in P. malariae trap and ama1 as compared to p48/45 in P. malariae samples isolated from Thailand, Myanmar, and Lao PDR. Taken together, these results suggest that P48/45 might be a good vaccine candidate against P. malariae infection because of its sufficiently low genetic diversity and highly conserved amino acids especially on the carboxyl end.

Adhikari B, Phommasone K, Kommarasy P, Soundala X, Souvanthong P, Pongvongsa T, Henriques G, Newton PN, White NJ, Day NPJ et al. 2018. Why do people participate in mass anti-malarial administration? Findings from a qualitative study in Nong District, Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR (Laos). Malar J, 17 (1), pp. 15. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: As a part of targeted malaria elimination (TME) in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), mass drug administration (MDA) with anti-malarials was conducted in four villages in Nong District, Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR (Laos). A high proportion of the target population participated in the MDA, with over 87% agreeing to take the anti-malarial. Drawing on qualitative data collected alongside the MDA, this article explores the factors that led to this high population coverage. METHODS: Qualitative data collection methods included observations, which were recorded in field notes, focus group discussions (FGDs), and semi-structured interviews (SSIs). Data were collected on local context, MDA-related knowledge, attitudes and perceptions. FGDs and SSIs were audio-recorded, transcribed and translated to English. All transcriptions and field notes underwent qualitative content analysis using QSR NVivo. RESULTS: Respondents recognized malaria as a health concern and described the need for a malaria control program. The risk of malaria including asymptomatic infection was explained in terms of participants' work in forest and fields, and poor hygiene. During the MDA rounds, there was an improvement in knowledge on the concept of asymptomatic malaria, the rationale of MDA and the blood test. In all four villages, poverty affected access to healthcare and the provision of free care by TME was highly appreciated. TME was jointly undertaken by research staff and local volunteers. Authorities were involved in all TME activities. Lao Theung communities were cohesive and community members tended to follow each other's behaviour closely including participation in MDA. Factors such as understanding the concept and rationale of the study, free health care, collaboration with the village volunteers, support from authorities and cohesive communities contributed in building trust and high population coverage in MDA. CONCLUSION: Future malaria control programmes can become successful in achieving the high coverage in MDAs drawing from the success of TME in Laos. A high population coverage in TME was a combination of various factors that included the community engagement to promote the concept and rationale of MDA for asymptomatic malaria in addition to their baseline understanding of malaria as a health concern, provision of free primary health care, partnering of the research with local volunteers and authorities, building social relationship with community members and the cohesive nature of the communities boosted the trust and participation in MDA.

Adhikari B, Phommasone K, Pongvongsa T, Soundala X, Koummarasy P, Henriques G, Peto TJ, Seidlein LV, White NJ, Day NPJ et al. 2018. Perceptions of asymptomatic malaria infection and their implications for malaria control and elimination in Laos. PLoS One, 13 (12), pp. e0208912. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), malaria elimination efforts are targeting the asymptomatic parasite reservoirs. Understanding community perceptions about asymptomatic malaria infections and interventions that target this reservoir is critical to the design of community engagement. This article examines knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and practices related to asymptomatic malaria infections and mass drug administration (MDA) in malaria-endemic villages in southern Savannakhet Province, Laos. METHODS: A questionnaire consisting of questions on socio-demographic characteristics, knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and practices on malaria and MDA was administered to each household head or representative (n = 281) in four villages. These topics were also further discussed in 12 single-gender focus group discussions (FGDs). The FGDs were conducted in all four villages and consisted of eight to 10 participants. RESULTS: A minority (14.2%; 40/281) of respondents agreed that a seemingly healthy person could have malaria parasite in his or her blood. Half (52%; 146/281) disagreed and one third (33.8%, 95/281) were unsure. Respondents who responded that "MDA aims to cure everyone" [AOR = 4.6; CI: 1.6-13.1], "MDA is to make our community malaria free" [AOR = 3.3; CI: 1.3-8.1] and "I will take part in future MDA" [AOR = 9.9; CI: 1.2-78.8] were more likely to accept the idea of asymptomatic malaria. During FGDs, respondents recalled signs and symptoms of malaria (fever, chills and headache), and described malaria as a major health problem. Symptomatic and asymptomatic malaria infections were associated with their work in the forest and living conditions. Measures described to eliminate malaria included using mosquito nets, wearing long-sleeved clothes and taking medicine when symptomatic. Most respondents were unaware of MDA as a tool to eliminate malaria. CONCLUSIONS: Awareness of asymptomatic malaria infections, and MDA as a tool to eliminate malaria, was low. With the need to target asymptomatic malaria carriers for elimination efforts in the GMS, as well as informing target groups about asymptomatic infection, accompanying community engagement must build trust in interventions through the active collaboration of government stakeholders, key local persons and community members. This entails training and devolving responsibilities to the community members to implement and sustain the control and elimination efforts.

Phouangsouvanh S, Mayxay M, Keoluangkhot V, Vongsouvath M, Davong V, Dance DAB. 2018. Antimicrobial susceptibility of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates in Vientiane, Lao PDR. J Glob Antimicrob Resist, 13 pp. 91-93. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to determine the antimicrobial susceptibility of Neisseria gonorrhoeae isolates in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). METHODS: A total of 165 gonococcal isolates (1.3%) were obtained from 12 281 genital samples routinely submitted to a diagnostic laboratory in Vientiane, Laos, between 2011 and 2015. Susceptibility to five antibiotics was determined by the standard disk diffusion method for 158 of the isolates. RESULTS: Rates of resistance to penicillin (by β-lactamase production), tetracycline and ciprofloxacin were 89.9%, 99.4% and 84.8%, respectively. All isolates were susceptible to ceftriaxone and spectinomycin. CONCLUSIONS: The situation in Laos is similar to that in neighbouring countries; this fortunately means that the latest Lao national guidelines for treating gonorrhoea should still be effective.

Tun STT, von Seidlein L, Pongvongsa T, Mayxay M, Saralamba S, Kyaw SS, Chanthavilay P, Celhay O, Nguyen TD, Tran TN-A et al. 2017. Towards malaria elimination in Savannakhet, Lao PDR: mathematical modelling driven strategy design. Malar J, 16 (1), pp. 483. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The number of Plasmodium falciparum malaria cases around the world has decreased substantially over the last 15 years, but with the spread of resistance against anti-malarial drugs and insecticides, this decline may not continue. There is an urgent need to consider alternative, accelerated strategies to eliminate malaria in countries like Lao PDR, where there are a few remaining endemic areas. A deterministic compartmental modelling tool was used to develop an integrated strategy for P. falciparum elimination in the Savannakhet province of Lao PDR. The model was designed to include key aspects of malaria transmission and integrated control measures, along with a user-friendly interface. RESULTS: Universal coverage was the foundation of the integrated strategy, which took the form of the deployment of community health workers who provided universal access to early diagnosis, treatment and long-lasting insecticidal nets. Acceleration was included as the deployment of three monthly rounds of mass drug administration targeted towards high prevalence villages, with the addition of three monthly doses of the RTS,S vaccine delivered en masse to the same high prevalence sub-population. A booster dose of vaccine was added 1 year later. The surveillance-as-intervention component of the package involved the screening and treatment of individuals entering the simulated population. CONCLUSIONS: In this modelling approach, the sequential introduction of a series of five available interventions in an integrated strategy was predicted to be sufficient to stop malaria transmission within a 3-year period. These interventions comprised universal access to early diagnosis and adequate treatment, improved access to long-lasting insecticidal nets, three monthly rounds of mass drug administration together with RTS,S vaccination followed by a booster dose of vaccine, and screening and treatment of imported cases.

Adhikari B, Phommasone K, Pongvongsa T, Kommarasy P, Soundala X, Henriques G, White NJ, Day NPJ, Dondorp AM, von Seidlein L et al. 2017. Factors associated with population coverage of targeted malaria elimination (TME) in southern Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR. Malar J, 16 (1), pp. 424. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Targeted malaria elimination (TME) in Lao PDR (Laos) included three rounds of mass drug administrations (MDA) against malaria followed by quarterly blood surveys in two villages in Nong District at Savannakhet Province. The success of MDA largely depends upon the efficacy of the anti-malarial drug regimen, local malaria epidemiology and the population coverage. In order to explore the reasons for participation in TME, a quantitative survey was conducted after the completion of the three rounds of MDA. METHODS: The survey was conducted in two villages with a total of 158 households in July and August 2016. Among the 973 villagers eligible for participation in the MDA, 158 (16.2%) adults (> 18 years) were selected, one each from every household for the interviews using a quantitative questionnaire. RESULTS: 150/158 (94.9%) respondents participated at least in one activity (taking medicine or testing their blood) of TME. 141/150 (94.0%) respondents took part in the MDA and tested their blood in all three rounds. 17/158 (10.7%) were partial or non-participants in three rounds of MDA. Characteristics of respondents which were independently associated with completion of three rounds of MDA included: attending TME meetings [AOR = 12.0 (95% CI 1.1-20.5) (p = 0.03)], knowing that malaria can be diagnosed through blood tests [AOR = 5.6 (95% CI 1.0-32.3) (p = 0.05)], all members from household participated [AOR = 4.2 (95% CI 1.3-14.0) (p = 0.02)], liking all aspects of TME [AOR = 17.2 (95% CI 1.6-177.9) (p = 0.02)] and the perception that TME was important [AOR = 14.9 (95% CI 1.3-171.2) (p = 0.03)]. CONCLUSION: Complete participation in TME was significantly associated with participation in community engagement activities, knowledge that the blood tests were for malaria diagnosis, family members' participation at TME and perceptions that TME was worthwhile. A responsive approach to community engagement that includes formative research and the involvement of community members may increase the uptake of the intervention.

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Adhikari B, Pell C, Phommasone K, Soundala X, Kommarasy P, Pongvongsa T, Henriques G, Day NPJ, Mayxay M, Cheah PY. 2017. Elements of effective community engagement: lessons from a targeted malaria elimination study in Lao PDR (Laos). Glob Health Action, 10 (1), pp. 1366136. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Mass drug (antimalarial) administration (MDA) is currently under study in Southeast Asia as part of a package of interventions referred to as targeted malaria elimination (TME). This intervention relies on effective community engagement that promotes uptake and adherence in target communities (above 80%). OBJECTIVE: Based on the experienced of designing and implementing the community engagement for TME in Laos, in this article we aim to present the elements of effective community engagement for mass antimalarial administration. METHODS: The design and implementation of community engagement, which took place from September 2015 to August 2016 was recorded as field notes, meeting minutes and photographs. These data underwent qualitative content analysis. RESULTS: The community engagement strategy that accompanied TME in Laos was successful in terms of contributing to high levels of participation in mass anti-malarial administration (above 85%). Based on the experience of designing and implementing the community engagement, five key elements were identified: (1) stakeholder and authority engagement, which proceeded from national level, to regional/district and local level; (2) local human resources, particularly the recruitment of local volunteers who were integral to the design and implementation of activities in the study villages; (3) formative research, to rapidly gain insight into the local social and economic context; (4) responsiveness whereby the approach was adapted according to the needs of the community and their responses to the various study components; and (5) sharing control/leadership with the community in terms of decisions on the organization of TME activities. CONCLUSIONS: The community engagement that accompanied TME in Laos had to deal with challenges of implementing a complex study in remote and linguistically isolated villages. Despite these challenges, the study recorded high population coverage. Lessons learnt from this experience are useful for studies and intervention programs in diverse contexts.

Caillet C, Sichanh C, Assemat G, Malet-Martino M, Sommet A, Bagheri H, Sengxeu N, Mongkhonmath N, Mayxay M, Syhakhang L et al. 2017. Role of Medicines of Unknown Identity in Adverse Drug Reaction-Related Hospitalizations in Developing Countries: Evidence from a Cross-Sectional Study in a Teaching Hospital in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Drug Saf, 40 (9), pp. 809-821. | Show Abstract | Read more

INTRODUCTION: The health dangers of medicines of unknown identity (MUIs) [loose pharmaceutical units repackaged in individual bags without labelling of their identity] have been suspected in L/MICs. Using visual and analytical tools to identify MUIs, we investigated the frequency of, and factors associated with, adverse drug reaction (ADR)-related hospitalizations in a central hospital in Vientiane Capital, Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR). METHODS: All unplanned admissions, except for acute trauma and intentional overdose, were prospectively recorded during a 7-week period in 2013, leading to include 453 adults hospitalized for ≥24 h. The patients or their relatives were interviewed to complete the study questionnaire. MUIs suspected of being involved in ADR(s) were identified through comparison of visual characteristics of tablets/capsules with that of reference medicines (photograph tool), and by proton nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry analyses. Factors associated with ADRs were identified by multivariate logistic regression. RESULTS: The frequency of hospitalizations related to an ADR was 5.1% (23/453, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.1-7.1). Forty-eight (12.8%) patients used MUI(s) in the last 2 weeks preceding hospitalization. They were more likely to be hospitalized because of an ADR (adjusted odds ratio 4.5, 95% CI 1.7-11.5) than patients using medicines of known identity. MUIs were mainly involved in bleeding gastroduodenal ulcers. The photograph tool led to the misidentifications because of look-alike pharmaceutical units in the medicines photograph collection. CONCLUSION: According to the results of this study, there is a need to ensure appropriate labelling of medicines at dispensing and to provide well-suited tools to identify MUIs in clinical settings to improve drug safety and patients' care in developing countries with limited capacities for drug analysis.

Nguyen VH, Dubot-Pérès A, Russell FM, Dance DAB, Vilivong K, Phommachan S, Syladeth C, Lai J, Lim R, Morpeth M et al. 2017. Acute respiratory infections in hospitalized children in Vientiane, Lao PDR - the importance of Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Sci Rep, 7 (1), pp. 9318. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the most important viral pathogens, causing epidemics of acute respiratory infection (ARI), especially bronchiolitis and pneumonia, in children worldwide. To investigate the RSV burden in Laos, we conducted a one-year study in children <5 years old admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane Capital, to describe clinical and epidemiological characteristics and predictive factors for severity of RSV-associated ARI. Pooled nasal and throat swabs were tested using multiplex real-time PCR for 33 respiratory pathogens (FTD® kit). A total of 383 patients were included, 277 (72.3%) of whom presented with pneumonia. 377 (98.4%) patients were positive for at least one microorganism, of which RSV was the most common virus (41.0%), with a peak observed between June and September, corresponding to the rainy season. Most RSV inpatients had pneumonia (84.1%), of whom 35% had severe pneumonia. Children <3-months old were a high-risk group for severe pneumonia, independently of RSV infection. Our study suggests that RSV infection is frequent in Laos and commonly associated with pneumonia in hospitalized young children. Further investigations are required to provide a better overall view of the Lao nationwide epidemiology and public health burden of RSV infection over time.

Wada T, Nakahara S, Bounta B, Phommahaxay K, Phonelervong V, Phommachanh S, Mayxay M, Manivong T, Phoutsavath P, Ichikawa M, Kimura A. 2017. Road traffic injury among child motorcyclists in Vientiane Capital, Laos: a cross-sectional study using a hospital-based injury surveillance database. Int J Inj Contr Saf Promot, 24 (2), pp. 152-157. | Show Abstract | Read more

This study investigated the distribution of motorcyclists, including drivers and passengers, who were involved in road traffic crashes and admitted to hospital in Vientiane Capital, Laos. The focus was on child motorcycle drivers and passengers under 15 years. A hospital-based injury surveillance database in Vientiane Capital was used. The surveillance was performed in two hospitals. From 1 September to 31 December 2009, 3968 patients were admitted to the participating hospitals with road traffic injuries. Patients under 15 years accounted for 10.8% (427/3968). The majority of patients under 15 years were motorcycle drivers or passengers (71.7%, 306/427). Child motorcyclists including drivers and passengers were less likely to wear a helmet than adults (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.3, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.2-0.5, for children 10-14 years; adjusted OR: 0.1, 95% CI, 0.05-0.4, for children under 10 years). It is suggested that stricter regulation enforcement for child motorcycle drivers and passengers may be needed. In addition, barriers against wearing helmets for motorcycle drivers and passengers in Laos should also be examined in further studies.

Phommachanh S, Ichikawa M, Nakahara S, Mayxay M, Kimura A. 2017. Student motorcyclists' mobile phone use while driving in Vientiane, Laos. Int J Inj Contr Saf Promot, 24 (2), pp. 245-250. | Show Abstract | Read more

To investigate mobile phone use while driving among student motorcyclists in Laos, we conducted a school-based questionnaire survey in central Vientiane in May 2014. Of the 883 high school students who reported to drive motorcycles at least once a week, 40% have ever used phones while driving motorcycles in both sexes. Those phone users had longer driving exposures than non-users, with about half engaging in phone use while driving at least 2 days a week and 70% engaging for 1 min or longer on an average day. They reported not just talking on the phone while driving but operating the phone such as dialling and text-messaging. In some instances, phone use was reportedly involved in their past crash experiences. To formulate a sound policy on this emerging distracting behaviour among motorcyclists, its contribution to the occurrence of overall crashes among motorcyclists should be investigated.

Imwong M, Suwannasin K, Kunasol C, Sutawong K, Mayxay M, Rekol H, Smithuis FM, Hlaing TM, Tun KM, van der Pluijm RW et al. 2017. The spread of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in the Greater Mekong subregion: a molecular epidemiology observational study. Lancet Infect Dis, 17 (5), pp. 491-497. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Evidence suggests that the PfKelch13 mutations that confer artemisinin resistance in falciparum malaria have multiple independent origins across the Greater Mekong subregion, which has motivated a regional malaria elimination agenda. We aimed to use molecular genotyping to assess antimalarial drug resistance selection and spread in the Greater Mekong subregion. METHODS: In this observational study, we tested Plasmodium falciparum isolates from Myanmar, northeastern Thailand, southern Laos, and western Cambodia for PfKelch13 mutations and for Pfplasmepsin2 gene amplification (indicating piperaquine resistance). We collected blood spots from patients with microscopy or rapid test confirmed uncomplicated falciparum malaria. We used microsatellite genotyping to assess genetic relatedness. FINDINGS: As part of studies on the epidemiology of artemisinin-resistant malaria between Jan 1, 2008, and Dec 31, 2015, we collected 434 isolates. In 2014-15, a single long PfKelch13 C580Y haplotype (-50 to +31·5 kb) lineage, which emerged in western Cambodia in 2008, was detected in 65 of 88 isolates from northeastern Thailand, 86 of 111 isolates from southern Laos, and 14 of 14 isolates from western Cambodia, signifying a hard transnational selective sweep. Pfplasmepsin2 amplification occurred only within this lineage, and by 2015 these closely related parasites were found in ten of the 14 isolates from Cambodia and 15 of 15 isolates from northeastern Thailand. C580Y mutated parasites from Myanmar had a different genetic origin. INTERPRETATION: Our results suggest that the dominant artemisinin-resistant P falciparum C580Y lineage probably arose in western Cambodia and then spread to Thailand and Laos, outcompeting other parasites and acquiring piperaquine resistance. The emergence and spread of fit artemisinin-resistant P falciparum parasite lineages, which then acquire partner drug resistance across the Greater Mekong subregion, threatens regional malaria control and elimination goals. Elimination of falciparum malaria from this region should be accelerated while available antimalarial drugs still remain effective. FUNDING: The Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Ataide R, Ashley EA, Powell R, Chan J-A, Malloy MJ, O'Flaherty K, Takashima E, Langer C, Tsuboi T, Dondorp AM et al. 2017. Host immunity to Plasmodium falciparum and the assessment of emerging artemisinin resistance in a multinational cohort. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 114 (13), pp. 3515-3520. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin-resistant falciparum malaria, defined by a slow-clearance phenotype and the presence of kelch13 mutants, has emerged in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Naturally acquired immunity to malaria clears parasites independent of antimalarial drugs. We hypothesized that between- and within-population variations in host immunity influence parasite clearance after artemisinin treatment and the interpretation of emerging artemisinin resistance. Antibodies specific to 12 Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite and blood-stage antigens were determined in 959 patients (from 11 sites in Southeast Asia) participating in a multinational cohort study assessing parasite clearance half-life (PCt1/2) after artesunate treatment and kelch13 mutations. Linear mixed-effects modeling of pooled individual patient data assessed the association between antibody responses and PCt1/2.P. falciparum antibodies were lowest in areas where the prevalence of kelch13 mutations and slow PCt1/2 were highest [Spearman ρ = -0.90 (95% confidence interval, -0.97, -0.65), and Spearman ρ = -0.94 (95% confidence interval, -0.98, -0.77), respectively]. P. falciparum antibodies were associated with faster PCt1/2 (mean difference in PCt1/2 according to seropositivity, -0.16 to -0.65 h, depending on antigen); antibodies have a greater effect on the clearance of kelch13 mutant compared with wild-type parasites (mean difference in PCt1/2 according to seropositivity, -0.22 to -0.61 h faster in kelch13 mutants compared with wild-type parasites). Naturally acquired immunity accelerates the clearance of artemisinin-resistant parasites in patients with falciparum malaria and may confound the current working definition of artemisinin resistance. Immunity may also play an important role in the emergence and transmission potential of artemisinin-resistant parasites.

Bell D, Bwanika JB, Cunningham J, Gatton M, González IJ, Hopkins H, Kibira SPS, Kyabayinze DJ, Mayxay M, Ndawula B et al. 2017. Prototype Positive Control Wells for Malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests: Prospective Evaluation of Implementation Among Health Workers in Lao People's Democratic Republic and Uganda. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 96 (2), pp. 319-329. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are widely used for malaria diagnosis, but lack of quality control at point of care restricts trust in test results. Prototype positive control wells (PCW) containing recombinant malaria antigens have been developed to identify poor-quality RDT lots. This study assessed community and facility health workers' (HW) ability to use PCWs to detect degraded RDTs, the impact of PCW availability on RDT use and prescribing, and preferred strategies for implementation in Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) and Uganda. A total of 557 HWs participated in Laos (267) and Uganda (290). After training, most (88% to ≥ 99%) participants correctly performed the six key individual PCW steps; performance was generally maintained during the 6-month study period. Nearly all (97%) reported a correct action based on PCW use at routine work sites. In Uganda, where data for 127,775 individual patients were available, PCW introduction in health facilities was followed by a decrease in antimalarial prescribing for RDT-negative patients ≥ 5 years of age (4.7-1.9%); among community-based HWs, the decrease was 12.2% (P < 0.05) for all patients. Qualitative data revealed PCWs as a way to confirm RDT quality and restore confidence in RDT results. HWs in malaria-endemic areas are able to use prototype PCWs for quality control of malaria RDTs. PCW availability can improve HWs' confidence in RDT results, and benefit malaria diagnostic programs. Lessons learned from this study may be valuable for introduction of other point-of-care diagnostic and quality-control tools. Future work should evaluate longer term impacts of PCWs on patient management.

Sengvilaipaseuth O, Phommasone K, de Lamballerie X, Vongsouvath M, Phonemixay O, Blacksell SD, Mayxay M, Keomany S, Souvannasing P, Newton PN, Dubot-Pérès A. 2017. Temperature of a Dengue Rapid Diagnostic Test under Tropical Climatic Conditions: A Follow Up Study. PLoS One, 12 (1), pp. e0170359. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Dengue Duo Rapid Diagnostic Test (SD Dengue RDT) has good specificity and sensitivity for dengue diagnosis in rural tropical areas. In a previous study, using four control sera, we demonstrated that that the diagnostic accuracy of these RDTs remains stable after long-term storage at high temperatures. We extended this study by testing sera from 119 febrile patients collected between July-November 2012 at Salavan Provincial Hospital (southern Laos) with RDTs stored for 6 months at 4°C, 35° and in a hut (miniature traditional house) at Lao ambient temperatures. The dengue NS1 antigen results from RDTs stored at 35°C and in the hut demonstrated 100% agreement with those stored at 4°C. However, lower positive percent agreements, with broad 95%CI, were observed for the tests: IgM, 60% (14.7-94.7) and 40% (5.3-85.3) for RDTs store at 35°C and in the hut, compared to those stored at 4°C, respectively. This study strenghtens the evidence of the robustness of the NS1 antigen detection RDT for the diagnosis of dengue after storage at tropical temperatures.

Grist EPM, Flegg JA, Humphreys G, Mas IS, Anderson TJC, Ashley EA, Day NPJ, Dhorda M, Dondorp AM, Faiz MA et al. 2016. Optimal health and disease management using spatial uncertainty: a geographic characterization of emergent artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum distributions in Southeast Asia. Int J Health Geogr, 15 (1), pp. 37. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites are now present across much of mainland Southeast Asia, where ongoing surveys are measuring and mapping their spatial distribution. These efforts require substantial resources. Here we propose a generic 'smart surveillance' methodology to identify optimal candidate sites for future sampling and thus map the distribution of artemisinin resistance most efficiently. METHODS: The approach uses the 'uncertainty' map generated iteratively by a geostatistical model to determine optimal locations for subsequent sampling. RESULTS: The methodology is illustrated using recent data on the prevalence of the K13-propeller polymorphism (a genetic marker of artemisinin resistance) in the Greater Mekong Subregion. CONCLUSION: This methodology, which has broader application to geostatistical mapping in general, could improve the quality and efficiency of drug resistance mapping and thereby guide practical operations to eliminate malaria in affected areas.

Cheah PY, Newton PN, Mayxay M. 2016. The first Science Café in Laos. Lancet, 388 (10052), pp. 1376. | Read more

Saralamba N, Nakeesathit S, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Osorio L, Kim J-R, White NJ, Day NPJ, Dondorp AM, Imwong M. 2016. Geographic distribution of amino acid mutations in DHFR and DHPS in Plasmodium vivax isolates from Lao PDR, India and Colombia. Malar J, 15 (1), pp. 484. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Non-synonymous mutations in dhfr and dhps genes in Plasmodium vivax are associated with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) resistance. The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of point mutations in P. vivax dhfr (pvdhfr) and P. vivax dhps (pvdhps) genes in three countries: Lao PDR, India and Colombia. METHODS: Samples from 203 microscopically diagnosed vivax malaria were collected from the three countries. Five codons at positions 13, 57, 58, 61, and 117 of pvdhfr and two codons at positions 383 and 553 of pvdhps were examined by polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism methodology. RESULTS: The largest number of 58R/117 N double mutations in pvdhfr was observed in Colombia (94.3 %), while the corresponding wild-type amino acids were found at high frequencies in Lao PDR during 2001-2004 (57.8 %). Size polymorphism analysis of the tandem repeats within pvdhfr revealed that 74.3 % of all the isolates carried the type B variant. Eighty-nine per cent of all the isolates examined carried wild-type pvdhps A383 and A553. CONCLUSIONS: Although SP is not generally used to treat P. vivax infections, mutations in dhfr and dhps that confer antifolate resistance in P. vivax are common. The data strongly suggest that, when used primarily to treat falciparum malaria, SP can exert a substantial selective pressure on P. vivax populations, and this can lead to point mutations in dhfr and dhps. Accurate data on the global geographic distribution of dhfr and dhps genotypes should help to inform anti-malarial drug-use policies.

Chanthavilay P, Reinharz D, Mayxay M, Phongsavan K, Marsden DE, Moore L, White LJ. 2016. Economic Evaluation of Screening Strategies Combined with HPV Vaccination of Preadolescent Girls for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Vientiane, Lao PDR. PLoS One, 11 (9), pp. e0162915. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Several approaches to reduce the incidence of invasive cervical cancers exist. The approach adopted should take into account contextual factors that influence the cost-effectiveness of the available options. OBJECTIVE: To determine the cost-effectiveness of screening strategies combined with a vaccination program for 10-year old girls for cervical cancer prevention in Vientiane, Lao PDR. METHODS: A population-based dynamic compartment model was constructed. The interventions consisted of a 10-year old girl vaccination program only, or this program combined with screening strategies, i.e., visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), cytology-based screening, rapid human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing, or combined VIA and cytology testing. Simulations were run over 100 years. In base-case scenario analyses, we assumed a 70% vaccination coverage with lifelong protection and a 50% screening coverage. The outcome of interest was the incremental cost per Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) averted. RESULTS: In base-case scenarios, compared to the next best strategy, the model predicted that VIA screening of women aged 30-65 years old every three years, combined with vaccination, was the most attractive option, costing 2 544 international dollars (I$) per DALY averted. Meanwhile, rapid HPV DNA testing was predicted to be more attractive than cytology-based screening or its combination with VIA. Among cytology-based screening options, combined VIA with conventional cytology testing was predicted to be the most attractive option. Multi-way sensitivity analyses did not change the results. Compared to rapid HPV DNA testing, VIA had a probability of cost-effectiveness of 73%. Compared to the vaccination only option, the probability that a program consisting of screening women every five years would be cost-effective was around 60% and 80% if the willingness-to-pay threshold is fixed at one and three GDP per capita, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: A VIA screening program in addition to a girl vaccination program was predicted to be the most attractive option in the health care context of Lao PDR. When compared with other screening methods, VIA was the primary recommended method for combination with vaccination in Lao PDR.

Briand V, Le Hesran J-Y, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Bertin G, Houzé S, Keomany S, Inthavong Y, Vannavong N, Chindavongsa K et al. 2016. Prevalence of malaria in pregnancy in southern Laos: a cross-sectional survey. Malar J, 15 (1), pp. 436. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: There are no data on the burden of malaria in pregnancy (MiP) in Laos, where malaria still remains prevalent in the south. METHODS: Two cross-sectional surveys were conducted in 2014 to assess the prevalence of MiP in Vapi District, Salavan Province, southern Laos: the first consisted of screening 204 pregnant women during pregnancies [mean (95 % CI) gestational age: 23 (22-25) weeks] living in 30 randomly selected villages in Vapi District; the second was conducted among 331 pregnant women, who delivered during the study period in Vapi and Toumlane District Hospitals and in Salavan Provincial Hospital. Peripheral and placental malaria was detected using rapid diagnostic tests (RDT), thick blood smears (TBS) and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reactions (RT-qPCR). Factors associated with low birth weight (LBW) and maternal anaemia were assessed. RESULTS: In the villages, 12/204 women (5.9 %; 95 % CI 3.1-10.0) were infected with malaria as determined by RT-qPCR: 11 were Plasmodium vivax infections and 1 was mixed Plasmodium vivax/Plasmodium falciparum infection, among which 9 were sub-microscopic (as not detected by TBS). History of malaria during current pregnancy tended to be associated with a higher risk of MiP (aIRR 3.05; 95 % CI 0.94-9.88). At delivery, two Plasmodium falciparum sub-microscopic infections (one peripheral and one placental) were detected (4.5 %; 0.6-15.5) in Vapi District. In both surveys, all infected women stated they had slept under a bed net the night before the survey, and 86 % went to the forest for food-finding 1 week before the survey in median. The majority of infections (94 %) were asymptomatic and half of them were associated with anaemia. Overall, 24 % of women had LBW newborns. Factors associated with a higher risk of LBW were tobacco use (aIRR 2.43; 95 % CI 1.64-3.60) and pre-term delivery (aIRR 3.17; 95 % CI 2.19-4.57). Factors associated with a higher risk of maternal anaemia were no iron supplementation during pregnancy, Lao Theung ethnicity and place of living. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of MiP in this population was noticeable. Most infections were asymptomatic and sub-microscopic vivax malaria, which raises the question of reliability of recommended national strategies for the screening and prevention of MiP in Laos.

Chanthavilay P, Reinharz D, Mayxay M, Phongsavan K, Marsden DE, Moore L, White LJ. 2016. The economic evaluation of human papillomavirus vaccination strategies against cervical cancer in women in Lao PDR: a mathematical modelling approach. BMC Health Serv Res, 16 (1), pp. 418. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Cervical cancer, a preventable disease, is the third leading cause of cancer morbidity and mortality in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Since many cervical cancers are linked to human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, vaccination against this virus may lead to a reduction in these types of cancer. The study described here is the first to compare the cost-effectiveness of different HPV vaccination options in Lao PDR. METHODS: A dynamic compartment model was created. The model included routine screening activities already in place, as well as theoretical interventions that included a 10-year old girl-only vaccination programme combined with/without a 10-year old boy vaccination programme and/or a catch-up component. The simulation was run over 100 years. In base case analyses, we assumed 70 % vaccination coverage with lifelong protection and 100 % efficacy against HPV types 16/18. The outcomes of interest were the incremental cost per Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) averted. RESULTS: In base case analyses, according to the WHO definition of cost-effectiveness thresholds, vaccinating 10-year-old girls was very cost-effective. Adding a catch-up vaccination element for females aged 11-25 years was also very cost-effective, costing 1559 international dollars (I$) per DALY averted. Increasing the age limit of the catch-up vaccination component to 75 years old showed that this remained a cost-effective option (I$ 5840 per DALY averted). Adding a vaccination programme for 10-year-old boys was not found to be cost-effective unless a short time simulation (30 years or less) was considered, along with a catch-up vaccination component for both males and females. CONCLUSIONS: Adding a catch-up female vaccination component is more attractive than adding a 10-year-old boy vaccination component.

Goh YS, Peng K, Chia WN, Siau A, Chotivanich K, Gruner A-C, Preiser P, Mayxay M, Pukrittayakamee S, Sriprawat K et al. 2016. Neutralizing Antibodies against Plasmodium falciparum Associated with Successful Cure after Drug Therapy. PLoS One, 11 (7), pp. e0159347. | Show Abstract | Read more

An effective antibody response can assist drug treatment to contribute to better parasite clearance in malaria patients. To examine this, sera were obtained from two groups of adult patients with acute falciparum malaria, prior to drug treatment: patients who (1) have subsequent recrudescent infection, or (2) were cured by Day 28 following treatment. Using a Plasmodium falciparum antigen library, we examined the antibody specificities in these sera. While the antibody repertoire of both sera groups was extremely broad and varied, there was a differential antibody profile between the two groups of sera. The proportion of cured patients with antibodies against EXP1, MSP3, GLURP, RAMA, SEA and EBA181 was higher than the proportion of patients with recrudescent infection. The presence of these antibodies was associated with higher odds of treatment cure. Sera containing all six antibodies impaired the invasion of P. falciparum clinical isolates into erythrocytes. These results suggest that antibodies specific against EXP1, MSP3, GLURP, RAMA, SEA and EBA181 in P. falciparum infections could assist anti-malarial drug treatment and contribute to the resolution of the malarial infection.

Tabernero P, Parker M, Ravinetto R, Phanouvong S, Yeung S, Kitutu FE, Cheah PY, Mayxay M, Guerin PJ, Newton PN. 2016. Ethical challenges in designing and conducting medicine quality surveys. Trop Med Int Health, 21 (6), pp. 799-806. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVES: In this paper we discuss the main ethical challenges related to the conduct of medicine quality surveys and make suggestions on how to address them. METHOD: Most evidence-based information regarding medicine quality derives from surveys. However, existing research ethical guidelines do not provide specific guidance for medicine quality surveys. Hence, those conducting surveys are often left wondering how to judge what counts as best practice. A list of the main ethical challenges in the design and conduct of surveys is presented. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: It is vital that the design and conduct of medicine quality surveys uphold moral and ethical obligations and analyse the ethical implications and consequences of such work. These aspects include the impact on the local availability of and access to medicines; the confidentiality and privacy of the surveyors and the surveyed; questions as to whether outlet staff personnel should be told they are part of a survey; the need of ethical and regulatory approvals; and how the findings should be disseminated. Medicine quality surveys should ideally be conducted in partnership with the relevant national Medicine Regulatory Authorities. An international, but contextually sensitive, model of good ethical practice for such surveys is needed.

Phommasone K, Adhikari B, Henriques G, Pongvongsa T, Phongmany P, von Seidlein L, White NJ, Day NPJ, M Dondorp A, Newton PN et al. 2016. Asymptomatic Plasmodium infections in 18 villages of southern Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR (Laos). Malar J, 15 (1), pp. 296. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: A large fraction of Plasmodium infections do not cause clinical signs and symptoms of disease and persist at densities in blood that are not detectable by microscopy or rapid diagnostic tests. These infections may be critical as a transmission reservoir in areas of low malaria endemicity. Understanding the epidemiology of these infections would be helpful for malaria elimination. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Thapangthong and Nong Districts of Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR, to determine the prevalence of parasitaemia. A total of 888 blood samples were collected from afebrile volunteers aged ≥15 years in 18 villages during March and July 2015. Plasmodium infections were diagnosed by rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) and high volume, ultra-sensitive quantitative polymerase chain reaction (uPCR). RESULTS: uPCR detected Plasmodium infections in 175 of 888 samples (20 %). The species distribution was Plasmodium falciparum 3.6 % (32/888), Plasmodium vivax 11.1 % (99/888), mixed infections with P. falciparum and P. vivax 1.6 % (14/888) and Plasmodium of undetermined species 3.4 % (30/888). RDT identified only 2 % (18/888) positive cases. Using uPCR as reference, the sensitivity and specificity of RDTs were 28 and 100 %, respectively, in detecting P. falciparum infections, and 3 and 99 % in detecting asymptomatic P. vivax infections. The K13 kelch propeller domain C580Y mutation, associated with reduced susceptibility to artemisinin derivatives, was found in 75 % (12/18) of P. falciparum isolates from Thapangthong and in 7 % (2/28) from Nong (p < 0.001). In a multivariate analysis, males were more likely to have P. vivax infections [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 4.76 (95 % CI 2.84-8.00)] while older villagers were at lower risk for parasitaemia [aOR for increasing age 0.98 (95 % CI 0.96-0.99)]. CONCLUSION: There is a high prevalence of asymptomatic Plasmodium infections in southern Savannakhet. Artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum strains form an increasing proportion of the parasite population in Thapangthong District and are already present in the more remote Nong District. This worrying trend has wider implications for Laos and could reverse the gains achieved by the successful control of malaria in Laos and the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). Rapid elimination of P. falciparum has to be a top priority in Laos as well as in the wider GMS.

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WWARN Gametocyte Study Group. 2016. Gametocyte carriage in uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria following treatment with artemisinin combination therapy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of individual patient data. BMC Med, 14 (1), pp. 79. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Gametocytes are responsible for transmission of malaria from human to mosquito. Artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) reduces post-treatment gametocyte carriage, dependent upon host, parasite and pharmacodynamic factors. The gametocytocidal properties of antimalarial drugs are important for malaria elimination efforts. An individual patient clinical data meta-analysis was undertaken to identify the determinants of gametocyte carriage and the comparative effects of four ACTs: artemether-lumefantrine (AL), artesunate/amodiaquine (AS-AQ), artesunate/mefloquine (AS-MQ), and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP). METHODS: Factors associated with gametocytaemia prior to, and following, ACT treatment were identified in multivariable logistic or Cox regression analysis with random effects. All relevant studies were identified through a systematic review of PubMed. Risk of bias was evaluated based on study design, methodology, and missing data. RESULTS: The systematic review identified 169 published and 9 unpublished studies, 126 of which were shared with the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) and 121 trials including 48,840 patients were included in the analysis. Prevalence of gametocytaemia by microscopy at enrolment was 12.1 % (5887/48,589), and increased with decreasing age, decreasing asexual parasite density and decreasing haemoglobin concentration, and was higher in patients without fever at presentation. After ACT treatment, gametocytaemia appeared in 1.9 % (95 % CI, 1.7-2.1) of patients. The appearance of gametocytaemia was lowest after AS-MQ and AL and significantly higher after DP (adjusted hazard ratio (AHR), 2.03; 95 % CI, 1.24-3.12; P = 0.005 compared to AL) and AS-AQ fixed dose combination (FDC) (AHR, 4.01; 95 % CI, 2.40-6.72; P < 0.001 compared to AL). Among individuals who had gametocytaemia before treatment, gametocytaemia clearance was significantly faster with AS-MQ (AHR, 1.26; 95 % CI, 1.00-1.60; P = 0.054) and slower with DP (AHR, 0.74; 95 % CI, 0.63-0.88; P = 0.001) compared to AL. Both recrudescent (adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 9.05; 95 % CI, 3.74-21.90; P < 0.001) and new (AOR, 3.03; 95 % CI, 1.66-5.54; P < 0.001) infections with asexual-stage parasites were strongly associated with development of gametocytaemia after day 7. CONCLUSIONS: AS-MQ and AL are more effective than DP and AS-AQ FDC in preventing gametocytaemia shortly after treatment, suggesting that the non-artemisinin partner drug or the timing of artemisinin dosing are important determinants of post-treatment gametocyte dynamics.

Vongsouvath M, Phommasone K, Sengvilaipaseuth O, Kosoltanapiwat N, Chantratita N, Blacksell SD, Lee SJ, de Lamballerie X, Mayxay M, Keomany S et al. 2016. Using Rapid Diagnostic Tests as a Source of Viral RNA for Dengue Serotyping by RT-PCR - A Novel Epidemiological Tool. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 10 (5), pp. e0004704. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Dengue virus infection causes major public health problems in tropical and subtropical areas. In many endemic areas, including the Lao PDR, inadequate access to laboratory facilities is a major obstacle to surveillance and study of dengue epidemiology. Filter paper is widely used for blood collection for subsequent laboratory testing for antibody and nucleic acid detection. For the first time, we demonstrate that dengue viral RNA can be extracted from dengue rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) and then submitted to real-time RT-PCR for serotyping. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We evaluated the Standard Diagnostics (SD) Bioline Dengue Duo RDT, a commonly used test in dengue endemic areas. First, using the QIAamp RNA kit, dengue RNA was purified from the sample pad of the NS1 RDT loaded with virus isolates of the four serotypes, then quantified by RT-PCR. We observed greater recovery of virus, with a mean of 27 times more RNA recovered from RDT, than from filter paper. Second, we evaluated dengue NS1 RDTs from patients at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, (99 patients) and from rural Salavan Provincial Hospital (362 patients). There was good agreement between dengue RT-PCR from NS1 RDT with RT-PCR performed on RNA extracted from patient sera, either using RDT loaded with blood (82.8% and 91.4%, in Vientiane and Salavan, respectively) or serum (91.9% and 93.9%). There was 100% concordance between RDT and serum RT-PCR of infecting dengue serotype. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Therefore, the collection of NS1 positive RDTs, which do not require cold storage, may be a novel approach for dengue serotyping by RT-PCR and offers promising prospects for the collection of epidemiological data from previously inaccessible tropical areas to aid surveillance and public health interventions.

Lubell Y, Althaus T, Blacksell SD, Paris DH, Mayxay M, Pan-Ngum W, White LJ, Day NPJ, Newton PN. 2016. Modelling the Impact and Cost-Effectiveness of Biomarker Tests as Compared with Pathogen-Specific Diagnostics in the Management of Undifferentiated Fever in Remote Tropical Settings. PLoS One, 11 (3), pp. e0152420. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria accounts for a small fraction of febrile cases in increasingly large areas of the malaria endemic world. Point-of-care tests to improve the management of non-malarial fevers appropriate for primary care are few, consisting of either diagnostic tests for specific pathogens or testing for biomarkers of host response that indicate whether antibiotics might be required. The impact and cost-effectiveness of these approaches are relatively unexplored and methods to do so are not well-developed. METHODS: We model the ability of dengue and scrub typhus rapid tests to inform antibiotic treatment, as compared with testing for elevated C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a biomarker of host-inflammation. Using data on causes of fever in rural Laos, we estimate the proportion of outpatients that would be correctly classified as requiring an antibiotic and the likely cost-effectiveness of the approaches. RESULTS: Use of either pathogen-specific test slightly increased the proportion of patients correctly classified as requiring antibiotics. CRP testing was consistently superior to the pathogen-specific tests, despite heterogeneity in causes of fever. All testing strategies are likely to result in higher average costs, but only the scrub typhus and CRP tests are likely to be cost-effective when considering direct health benefits, with median cost per disability adjusted life year averted of approximately $48 USD and $94 USD, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Testing for viral infections is unlikely to be cost-effective when considering only direct health benefits to patients. Testing for prevalent bacterial pathogens can be cost-effective, having the benefit of informing not only whether treatment is required, but also as to the most appropriate antibiotic; this advantage, however, varies widely in response to heterogeneity in causes of fever. Testing for biomarkers of host inflammation is likely to be consistently cost-effective despite high heterogeneity, and can also offer substantial reductions in over-use of antimicrobials in viral infections.

Beardsley J, Wolbers M, Kibengo FM, Ggayi A-BM, Kamali A, Cuc NTK, Binh TQ, Chau NVV, Farrar J, Merson L et al. 2016. Adjunctive Dexamethasone in HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis. N Engl J Med, 374 (6), pp. 542-554. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Cryptococcal meningitis associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection causes more than 600,000 deaths each year worldwide. Treatment has changed little in 20 years, and there are no imminent new anticryptococcal agents. The use of adjuvant glucocorticoids reduces mortality among patients with other forms of meningitis in some populations, but their use is untested in patients with cryptococcal meningitis. METHODS: In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, we recruited adult patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Uganda, and Malawi. All the patients received either dexamethasone or placebo for 6 weeks, along with combination antifungal therapy with amphotericin B and fluconazole. RESULTS: The trial was stopped for safety reasons after the enrollment of 451 patients. Mortality was 47% in the dexamethasone group and 41% in the placebo group by 10 weeks (hazard ratio in the dexamethasone group, 1.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84 to 1.47; P=0.45) and 57% and 49%, respectively, by 6 months (hazard ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.91 to 1.53; P=0.20). The percentage of patients with disability at 10 weeks was higher in the dexamethasone group than in the placebo group, with 13% versus 25% having a prespecified good outcome (odds ratio, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.25 to 0.69; P<0.001). Clinical adverse events were more common in the dexamethasone group than in the placebo group (667 vs. 494 events, P=0.01), with more patients in the dexamethasone group having grade 3 or 4 infection (48 vs. 25 patients, P=0.003), renal events (22 vs. 7, P=0.004), and cardiac events (8 vs. 0, P=0.004). Fungal clearance in cerebrospinal fluid was slower in the dexamethasone group. Results were consistent across Asian and African sites. CONCLUSIONS: Dexamethasone did not reduce mortality among patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis and was associated with more adverse events and disability than was placebo. (Funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development and others through the Joint Global Health Trials program; Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN59144167.).

Phommasone K, Althaus T, Souvanthong P, Phakhounthong K, Soyvienvong L, Malapheth P, Mayxay M, Pavlicek RL, Paris DH, Dance D et al. 2016. Accuracy of commercially available c-reactive protein rapid tests in the context of undifferentiated fevers in rural Laos. BMC Infect Dis, 16 (1), pp. 61. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: C-Reactive Protein (CRP) has been shown to be an accurate biomarker for discriminating bacterial from viral infections in febrile patients in Southeast Asia. Here we investigate the accuracy of existing rapid qualitative and semi-quantitative tests as compared with a quantitative reference test to assess their potential for use in remote tropical settings. METHODS: Blood samples were obtained from consecutive patients recruited to a prospective fever study at three sites in rural Laos. At each site, one of three rapid qualitative or semi-quantitative tests was performed, as well as a corresponding quantitative NycoCard Reader II as a reference test. We estimate the sensitivity and specificity of the three tests against a threshold of 10 mg/L and kappa values for the agreement of the two semi-quantitative tests with the results of the reference test. RESULTS: All three tests showed high sensitivity, specificity and kappa values as compared with the NycoCard Reader II. With a threshold of 10 mg/L the sensitivity of the tests ranged from 87-98 % and the specificity from 91-98 %. The weighted kappa values for the semi-quantitative tests were 0.7 and 0.8. CONCLUSION: The use of CRP rapid tests could offer an inexpensive and effective approach to improve the targeting of antibiotics in remote settings where health facilities are basic and laboratories are absent. This study demonstrates that accurate CRP rapid tests are commercially available; evaluations of their clinical impact and cost-effectiveness at point of care is warranted.

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European Pubmed Central

Cheeseman IH, Miller B, Tan JC, Tan A, Nair S, Nkhoma SC, De Donato M, Rodulfo H, Dondorp A, Branch OH et al. 2016. Population Structure Shapes Copy Number Variation in Malaria Parasites. Mol Biol Evol, 33 (3), pp. 603-620. | Show Abstract | Read more

If copy number variants (CNVs) are predominantly deleterious, we would expect them to be more efficiently purged from populations with a large effective population size (Ne) than from populations with a small Ne. Malaria parasites (Plasmodium falciparum) provide an excellent organism to examine this prediction, because this protozoan shows a broad spectrum of population structures within a single species, with large, stable, outbred populations in Africa, small unstable inbred populations in South America and with intermediate population characteristics in South East Asia. We characterized 122 single-clone parasites, without prior laboratory culture, from malaria-infected patients in seven countries in Africa, South East Asia and South America using a high-density single-nucleotide polymorphism/CNV microarray. We scored 134 high-confidence CNVs across the parasite exome, including 33 deletions and 102 amplifications, which ranged in size from <500 bp to 59 kb, as well as 10,107 flanking, biallelic single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Overall, CNVs were rare, small, and skewed toward low frequency variants, consistent with the deleterious model. Relative to African and South East Asian populations, CNVs were significantly more common in South America, showed significantly less skew in allele frequencies, and were significantly larger. On this background of low frequency CNV, we also identified several high-frequency CNVs under putative positive selection using an FST outlier analysis. These included known adaptive CNVs containing rh2b and pfmdr1, and several other CNVs (e.g., DNA helicase and three conserved proteins) that require further investigation. Our data are consistent with a significant impact of genetic structure on CNV burden in an important human pathogen.

Lubell Y, Blacksell SD, Dunachie S, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Althaus T, Watthanaworawit W, Paris DH, Mayxay M, Peto TJ, Dondorp AM et al. 2015. Performance of C-reactive protein and procalcitonin to distinguish viral from bacterial and malarial causes of fever in Southeast Asia. BMC Infect Dis, 15 (1), pp. 511. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Poor targeting of antimicrobial drugs contributes to the millions of deaths each year from malaria, pneumonia, and other tropical infectious diseases. While malaria rapid diagnostic tests have improved use of antimalarial drugs, there are no similar tests to guide the use of antibiotics in undifferentiated fevers. In this study we estimate the diagnostic accuracy of two well established biomarkers of bacterial infection, procalcitonin and C-reactive protein (CRP) in discriminating between common viral and bacterial infections in malaria endemic settings of Southeast Asia. METHODS: Serum procalcitonin and CRP levels were measured in stored serum samples from febrile patients enrolled in three prospective studies conducted in Cambodia, Laos and, Thailand. Of the 1372 patients with a microbiologically confirmed diagnosis, 1105 had a single viral, bacterial or malarial infection. Procalcitonin and CRP levels were compared amongst these aetiological groups and their sensitivity and specificity in distinguishing bacterial infections and bacteraemias from viral infections were estimated using standard thresholds. RESULTS: Serum concentrations of both biomarkers were significantly higher in bacterial infections and malaria than in viral infections. The AUROC for CRP in discriminating between bacterial and viral infections was 0.83 (0.81-0.86) compared with 0.74 (0.71-0.77) for procalcitonin (p < 0.0001). This relative advantage was evident in all sites and when stratifying patients by age and admission status. For CRP at a threshold of 10 mg/L, the sensitivity of detecting bacterial infections was 95% with a specificity of 49%. At a threshold of 20 mg/L sensitivity was 86% with a specificity of 67%. For procalcitonin at a low threshold of 0.1 ng/mL the sensitivity was 90% with a specificity of 39%. At a higher threshold of 0.5 ng/ul sensitivity was 60% with a specificity of 76%. CONCLUSION: In samples from febrile patients with mono-infections from rural settings in Southeast Asia, CRP was a highly sensitive and moderately specific biomarker for discriminating between viral and bacterial infections. Use of a CRP rapid test in peripheral health settings could potentially be a simple and affordable measure to better identify patients in need of antibacterial treatment and part of a global strategy to combat the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

WWARN Parasite Clearance Study Group, Abdulla S, Ashley EA, Bassat Q, Bethell D, Björkman A, Borrmann S, D'Alessandro U, Dahal P, Day NP et al. 2015. Baseline data of parasite clearance in patients with falciparum malaria treated with an artemisinin derivative: an individual patient data meta-analysis. Malar J, 14 (1), pp. 359. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum manifests as slow parasite clearance but this measure is also influenced by host immunity, initial parasite biomass and partner drug efficacy. This study collated data from clinical trials of artemisinin derivatives in falciparum malaria with frequent parasite counts to provide reference parasite clearance estimates stratified by location, treatment and time, to examine host factors affecting parasite clearance, and to assess the relationships between parasite clearance and risk of recrudescence during follow-up. METHODS: Data from 24 studies, conducted from 1996 to 2013, with frequent parasite counts were pooled. Parasite clearance half-life (PC1/2) was estimated using the WWARN Parasite Clearance Estimator. Random effects regression models accounting for study and site heterogeneity were used to explore factors affecting PC1/2 and risk of recrudescence within areas with reported delayed parasite clearance (western Cambodia, western Thailand after 2000, southern Vietnam, southern Myanmar) and in all other areas where parasite populations are artemisinin sensitive. RESULTS: PC1/2 was estimated in 6975 patients, 3288 of whom also had treatment outcomes evaluate d during 28-63 days follow-up, with 93 (2.8 %) PCR-confirmed recrudescences. In areas with artemisinin-sensitive parasites, the median PC1/2 following three-day artesunate treatment (4 mg/kg/day) ranged from 1.8 to 3.0 h and the proportion of patients with PC1/2 >5 h from 0 to 10 %. Artesunate doses of 4 mg/kg/day decreased PC1/2 by 8.1 % (95 % CI 3.2-12.6) compared to 2 mg/kg/day, except in populations with delayed parasite clearance. PC1/2 was longer in children and in patients with fever or anaemia at enrolment. Long PC1/2 (HR = 2.91, 95 % CI 1.95-4.34 for twofold increase, p < 0.001) and high initial parasitaemia (HR = 2.23, 95 % CI 1.44-3.45 for tenfold increase, p < 0.001) were associated independently with an increased risk of recrudescence. In western Cambodia, the region with the highest prevalence of artemisinin resistance, there was no evidence for increasing PC1/2 since 2007. CONCLUSIONS: Several factors affect PC1/2. As substantial heterogeneity in parasite clearance exists between locations, early detection of artemisinin resistance requires reference PC1/2 data. Studies with frequent parasite count measurements to characterize PC1/2 should be encouraged. In western Cambodia, where PC1/2 values are longest, there is no evidence for recent emergence of higher levels of artemisinin resistance.

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European Pubmed Central

WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) Lumefantrine PK/PD Study Group. 2015. Artemether-lumefantrine treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria: a systematic review and meta-analysis of day 7 lumefantrine concentrations and therapeutic response using individual patient data. BMC Med, 13 (1), pp. 227. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Achieving adequate antimalarial drug exposure is essential for curing malaria. Day 7 blood or plasma lumefantrine concentrations provide a simple measure of drug exposure that correlates well with artemether-lumefantrine efficacy. However, the 'therapeutic' day 7 lumefantrine concentration threshold needs to be defined better, particularly for important patient and parasite sub-populations. METHODS: The WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) conducted a large pooled analysis of individual pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic data from patients treated with artemether-lumefantrine for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria, to define therapeutic day 7 lumefantrine concentrations and identify patient factors that substantially alter these concentrations. A systematic review of PubMed, Embase, Google Scholar, ClinicalTrials.gov and conference proceedings identified all relevant studies. Risk of bias in individual studies was evaluated based on study design, methodology and missing data. RESULTS: Of 31 studies identified through a systematic review, 26 studies were shared with WWARN and 21 studies with 2,787 patients were included. Recrudescence was associated with low day 7 lumefantrine concentrations (HR 1.59 (95% CI 1.36 to 1.85) per halving of day 7 concentrations) and high baseline parasitemia (HR 1.87 (95% CI 1.22 to 2.87) per 10-fold increase). Adjusted for mg/kg dose, day 7 concentrations were lowest in very young children (<3 years), among whom underweight-for-age children had 23% (95% CI -1 to 41%) lower concentrations than adequately nourished children of the same age and 53% (95% CI 37 to 65%) lower concentrations than adults. Day 7 lumefantrine concentrations were 44% (95% CI 38 to 49%) lower following unsupervised treatment. The highest risk of recrudescence was observed in areas of emerging artemisinin resistance and very low transmission intensity. For all other populations studied, day 7 concentrations ≥200 ng/ml were associated with >98% cure rates (if parasitemia <135,000/μL). CONCLUSIONS: Current artemether-lumefantrine dosing recommendations achieve day 7 lumefantrine concentrations ≥200 ng/ml and high cure rates in most uncomplicated malaria patients. Three groups are at increased risk of treatment failure: very young children (particularly those underweight-for-age); patients with high parasitemias; and patients in very low transmission intensity areas with emerging parasite resistance. In these groups, adherence and treatment response should be monitored closely. Higher, more frequent, or prolonged dosage regimens should now be evaluated in very young children, particularly if malnourished, and in patients with hyperparasitemia.

Chanthavilay P, Mayxay M, Phongsavan K, Marsden DE, White LJ, Moore L, Reinharz D. 2015. Accuracy of Combined Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Cervical Cytology Testing as a Primary Screening Tool for Cervical Cancer: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 16 (14), pp. 5889-5897. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The performance of combined testing visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and cervical cytology tests might differ from one setting to another. The average estimate of the testing accuracy across studies is informative, but no meta-analysis has been carried out to assess this combined method. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to estimate the average sensitivity and specificity of the combined VIA and cervical cytology tests for the detection of cervical precancerous lesions. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a systematic review and a meta-analysis, according to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Review of Diagnostic Test Accuracy. We considered two cases. In the either-positive result case, a positive result implies positivity in at least one of the tests. A negative result implies negativity in both tests. In the both-positive case, a positive result implies having both tests positive. Eligible studies were identified using Pubmed, Embase, Website of Science, CINHAL and COCRANE databases. True positive, false positive, false negative and true negative values were extracted. Estimates of sensitivity and specificity, positive and negative likelihood (LR) and diagnostic odds ratios (DOR) were pooled using a hierarchical random effect model. Hierarchical summary receiver operating characteristics (HSROC) were generated and heterogeneity was verified through covariates potentially influencing the diagnostic odds ratio. FINDINGS: Nine studies fulfilled inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. Pooled estimates of the sensitivities of the combined tests in either-positive and both-positive cases were 0.87 (95% CI: 0.83-0.90) and 0.38 (95% CI: 0.29-0.48), respectively. Corresponding specificities were 0.79 (95% CI: 0.63-0.89) and 0.98 (95% CI: 0.96-0.99) respectively. The DORs of the combined tests in either-positive or both-positive result cases were 27.7 (95% CI: 12.5-61.5) and 52 (95% CI: 22.1-122.2), respectively. When including only articles without partial verification bias and also a high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia as a threshold of the disease, DOR of combined test in both-positive result cases remained the highest. However, DORs decreased to 12.1 (95% CI: 6.05-24.1) and 13.8 (95% CI: 7.92-23.9) in studies without partial verification bias for the combined tests in the either-positive and both-positive result cases, respectively. The screener, the place of study and the size of the population significantly influenced the DOR of combined tests in the both-positive result case in restriction analyses that considered only articles with CIN2+ as disease threshold. CONCLUSIONS: The combined test in the either-positive result case has a high sensitivity, but a low specificity. These results suggest that the combined test should be considered in developing countries as a primary screening test if facilities exist to confirm, through colposcopy and biopsy, a positive result.

Mayxay M, Sengvilaipaseuth O, Chanthongthip A, Dubot-Pérès A, Rolain J-M, Parola P, Craig SB, Tulsiani S, Burns M-A, Khanthavong M et al. 2015. Causes of Fever in Rural Southern Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 93 (3), pp. 517-520. | Show Abstract | Read more

The etiology of fever in rural Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) has remained obscure until recently owing to the lack of laboratory facilities. We conducted a study to determine the causes of fever among 229 patients without malaria in Savannakhet Province, southern Laos; 52% had evidence of at least one diagnosis (45% with single and 7% with apparent multiple infections). Among patients with only one diagnosis, dengue (30.1%) was the most common, followed by leptospirosis (7.0%), Japanese encephalitis virus infection (3.5%), scrub typhus (2.6%), spotted fever group infection (0.9%), unspecified flavivirus infection (0.9%), and murine typhus (0.4%). We discuss the empirical treatment of fever in relation to these findings.

Caillet C, Sichanh C, Syhakhang L, Delpierre C, Manithip C, Mayxay M, Lapeyre-Mestre M, Newton PN, Roussin A. 2015. Population awareness of risks related to medicinal product use in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR: a cross-sectional study for public health improvement in low and middle income countries. BMC Public Health, 15 (1), pp. 590. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: While essential medicines have been made more available in all but the most remote areas in low and middle income countries (L/MICs) over the past years, inappropriate and incorrect use of good quality medicines remains a key impediment for public health. In addition, as medicines have a potential to cause harm (medicine risks), adequate awareness by medicine users of the risks of adverse reactions is essential, especially as self-medication is common in L/MICs. This study aimed to investigate the awareness of Lao residents regarding medicine risks in Vientiane Capital, Lao People's Democratic Republic. METHODS: Face-to-face interviews using structured questionnaires of 144 residents older than 16 years were carried out in 12 randomly selected villages out of the 146 villages of Vientiane Capital with at least one health facility. RESULTS: The respondents were mainly (85.0 %) the heads of households or their husband/spouse . The majority of the respondents were unaware (61.8 %) of medicine risks. Compared to residents living in the urban district of Xaysetha, living in peri-urban and even more in rural areas were identified as factors associated with being unaware of medicine risks [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) =3.3, 95 % Confidence Interval (CI) = 1.1-9.4]) and aOR =7.5 (95 % CI = 2.3-24.2), respectively]. In addition, more than half of the respondents had never heard of poor quality medicines, with a higher rate in rural/peri-urban compared to urban districts (55.6 % vs 38.9 %, respectively, p = 0.02). Finally, approximately one third of all respondents thought that traditional medicines could not cause harm. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, these results suggest a lack of awareness about medicinal product risks. Differences according to the place of residence are apparent and could be partly explained by a lower level of training of healthcare providers in contact with the population in the rural districts in particular. Communication on medicinal product risks to patients through well-trained healthcare providers could probably make a valuable contribution towards the appropriate use of medicines in L/MICs.

Tabernero P, Mayxay M, Culzoni MJ, Dwivedi P, Swamidoss I, Allan EL, Khanthavong M, Phonlavong C, Vilayhong C, Yeuchaixiong S et al. 2015. A Repeat Random Survey of the Prevalence of Falsified and Substandard Antimalarials in the Lao PDR: A Change for the Better. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 92 (6 Suppl), pp. 95-104. | Show Abstract | Read more

In 2003, a stratified random sample survey was conducted in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) to study the availability and quality of antimalarials in the private sector. In 2012, this survey was repeated to allow a statistically valid analysis of change through time. The counterfeit detection device 3 (CD-3) was used to assess packaging quality in the field and HPLC and mass spectroscopy analysis chemical analysis performed. The availability of oral artesunate monotherapies had significantly decreased from 22.9% (22) of 96 outlets in southern Laos in 2003 to 4.8% (7) of 144 outlets in 2012 (P < 0.0001). All the samples collected in the 2012 survey contained the correct active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in contrast to the 21 (84%) falsified artesunate samples found in the 2003 survey. Although none of the medicines found in 2012 survey had evidence for falsification, 25.4% (37) of the samples were outside the 90-110% pharmacopeial limits of the label claim, suggesting that they were substandard or degraded. Results obtained from this survey show that patients are still exposed to poorly manufactured drugs or to ineffective medicines such as chloroquine. The quality of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) used in Laos needs to be monitored, since falsified ACTs would have devastating consequences in public health.

Ichikawa M, Nakahara S, Phommachanh S, Mayxay M, Kimura A. 2015. Roadside observation of secondary school students' commuting to school in Vientiane, Laos. Int J Inj Contr Saf Promot, 22 (2), pp. 111-115. | Show Abstract | Read more

To investigate modes of secondary school students' commuting to school and their unsafe driving practices in Laos, we conducted a roadside observation in front of the gate of a selected school in central Vientiane in December 2011. Of the 544 students observed, the majority came to school on foot (43%), followed by motorcycle (36%), and bicycle (14%). Of the 195 students who commuted by motorcycle, 45 (23%) drove it themselves. Of the 150 students who commuted as pillion riders, 35 (23%) were driven by a student or another child driver. The prevalence of helmet use among students (3%) was much lower than adults (66%). It was common for adult drivers to wear a helmet but to leave student pillion riders unhelmeted on the same motorcycle. Carrying two or three pillion riders was also often observed. The study revealed the necessity for measures to promote safe travel to school.

Keita AK, Dubot-Pérès A, Phommasone K, Sibounheuang B, Vongsouvath M, Mayxay M, Raoult D, Newton PN, Fenollar F. 2015. High prevalence of Tropheryma whipplei in Lao kindergarten children. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 9 (2), pp. e0003538. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Tropheryma whipplei is a bacterium commonly found in feces of young children in Africa, but with no data from Asia. We estimated the prevalence of T. whipplei carriage in feces of children in Lao PDR (Laos). METHODS/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Using specific quantitative real-time PCR, followed by genotyping for each positive specimen, we estimated the prevalence of T. whipplei in 113 feces from 106 children in Vientiane, the Lao PDR (Laos). T. whipplei was detected in 48% (51/106) of children. Those aged ≤ 4 years were significantly less frequently positive (17/52, 33%) than older children (34/54, 63%; p< 0.001). Positive samples were genotyped. Eight genotypes were detected including 7 specific to Laos. Genotype 2, previously detected in Europe, was circulating (21% of positive children) in 2 kindergartens (Chompet and Akad). Genotypes 136 and 138 were specific to Chompet (21% and 15.8%, respectively) whereas genotype 139 was specific to Akad (10.55%). CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: T. whipplei is a widely distributed bacterium, highly prevalent in feces of healthy children in Laos. Further research is needed to identify the public health significance of this finding.

Miotto O, Amato R, Ashley EA, MacInnis B, Almagro-Garcia J, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Mead D, Oyola SO, Dhorda M et al. 2015. Genetic architecture of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum. Nat Genet, 47 (3), pp. 226-234. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report a large multicenter genome-wide association study of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin, the frontline antimalarial drug. Across 15 locations in Southeast Asia, we identified at least 20 mutations in kelch13 (PF3D7_1343700) affecting the encoded propeller and BTB/POZ domains, which were associated with a slow parasite clearance rate after treatment with artemisinin derivatives. Nonsynonymous polymorphisms in fd (ferredoxin), arps10 (apicoplast ribosomal protein S10), mdr2 (multidrug resistance protein 2) and crt (chloroquine resistance transporter) also showed strong associations with artemisinin resistance. Analysis of the fine structure of the parasite population showed that the fd, arps10, mdr2 and crt polymorphisms are markers of a genetic background on which kelch13 mutations are particularly likely to arise and that they correlate with the contemporary geographical boundaries and population frequencies of artemisinin resistance. These findings indicate that the risk of new resistance-causing mutations emerging is determined by specific predisposing genetic factors in the underlying parasite population.

Brown TS, Jacob CG, Silva JC, Takala-Harrison S, Djimdé A, Dondorp AM, Fukuda M, Noedl H, Nyunt MM, Kyaw MP et al. 2015. Plasmodium falciparum field isolates from areas of repeated emergence of drug resistant malaria show no evidence of hypermutator phenotype. Infect Genet Evol, 30 pp. 318-322. | Show Abstract | Read more

Multiple transcontinental waves of drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum have originated in Southeast Asia before spreading westward, first into the rest of Asia and then to sub-Saharan Africa. In vitro studies have suggested that hypermutator P. falciparum parasites may exist in Southeast Asia and that an increased rate of acquisition of new mutations in these parasites may explain the repeated emergence of drug resistance in Southeast Asia. This study is the first to test the hypermutator hypothesis using field isolates. Using genome-wide SNP data from human P. falciparum infections in Southeast Asia and West Africa and a test for relative rate differences we found no evidence of increased relative substitution rates in P. falciparum isolates from Southeast Asia. Instead, we found significantly increased substitution rates in Mali and Bangladesh populations relative to those in populations from Southeast Asia. Additionally we found no association between increased relative substitution rates and parasite clearance following treatment with artemisinin derivatives.

Mok S, Ashley EA, Ferreira PE, Zhu L, Lin Z, Yeo T, Chotivanich K, Imwong M, Pukrittayakamee S, Dhorda M et al. 2015. Drug resistance. Population transcriptomics of human malaria parasites reveals the mechanism of artemisinin resistance. Science, 347 (6220), pp. 431-435. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum threatens global efforts to control and eliminate malaria. Polymorphisms in the kelch domain-carrying protein K13 are associated with artemisinin resistance, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unknown. We analyzed the in vivo transcriptomes of 1043 P. falciparum isolates from patients with acute malaria and found that artemisinin resistance is associated with increased expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) pathways involving the major PROSC and TRiC chaperone complexes. Artemisinin-resistant parasites also exhibit decelerated progression through the first part of the asexual intraerythrocytic development cycle. These findings suggest that artemisinin-resistant parasites remain in a state of decelerated development at the young ring stage, whereas their up-regulated UPR pathways mitigate protein damage caused by artemisinin. The expression profiles of UPR-related genes also associate with the geographical origin of parasite isolates, further suggesting their role in emerging artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

White NJ, Ashley EA, Recht J, Delves MJ, Ruecker A, Smithuis FM, Eziefula AC, Bousema T, Drakeley C, Chotivanich K et al. 2014. Assessment of therapeutic responses to gametocytocidal drugs in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Malar J, 13 (1), pp. 483. | Show Abstract | Read more

Indirect clinical measures assessing anti-malarial drug transmission-blocking activity in falciparum malaria include measurement of the duration of gametocytaemia, the rate of gametocyte clearance or the area under the gametocytaemia-time curve (AUC). These may provide useful comparative information, but they underestimate dose-response relationships for transmission-blocking activity. Following 8-aminoquinoline administration P. falciparum gametocytes are sterilized within hours, whereas clearance from blood takes days. Gametocytaemia AUC and clearance times are determined predominantly by the more numerous female gametocytes, which are generally less drug sensitive than the minority male gametocytes, whereas transmission-blocking activity and thus infectivity is determined by the more sensitive male forms. In choosing doses of transmission-blocking drugs there is no substitute yet for mosquito-feeding studies.

Rattanavong S, Fournier P-E, Chu V, Frichitthavong K, Kesone P, Mayxay M, Mirabel M, Newton PN. 2014. Bartonella henselae endocarditis in Laos - 'the unsought will go undetected'. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 8 (12), pp. e3385. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Both endocarditis and Bartonella infections are neglected public health problems, especially in rural Asia. Bartonella endocarditis has been described from wealthier countries in Asia, Japan, Korea, Thailand and India but there are no reports from poorer countries, such as the Lao PDR (Laos), probably because people have neglected to look. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We conducted a retrospective (2006-2012), and subsequent prospective study (2012-2013), at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos, through liaison between the microbiology laboratory and the wards. Patients aged >1 year admitted with definite or possible endocarditis according to modified Duke criteria were included. In view of the strong suspicion of infective endocarditis, acute and convalescent sera from 30 patients with culture negative endocarditis were tested for antibodies to Brucella melitensis, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Bartonella quintana, B. henselae, Coxiella burnetii and Legionella pneumophila. Western blot analysis using Bartonella species antigens enabled us to describe the first two Lao patients with known Bartonella henselae endocarditis. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We argue that it is likely that Bartonella endocarditis is neglected and more widespread than appreciated, as there are few laboratories in Asia able to make the diagnosis. Considering the high prevalence of rheumatic heart disease in Asia, there is remarkably little evidence on the bacterial etiology of endocarditis. Most evidence is derived from wealthy countries and investigation of the aetiology and optimal management of endocarditis in low income countries has been neglected. Interest in Bartonella as neglected pathogens is emerging, and improved methods for the rapid diagnosis of Bartonella endocarditis are needed, as it is likely that proven Bartonella endocarditis can be treated with simpler and less expensive regimens than "conventional" endocarditis and multicenter trials to optimize treatment are required. More understanding is needed on the risk factors for Bartonella endocarditis and the importance of vectors and vector control.

Day J, Imran D, Ganiem AR, Tjahjani N, Wahyuningsih R, Adawiyah R, Dance D, Mayxay M, Newton P, Phetsouvanh R et al. 2014. CryptoDex: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III trial of adjunctive dexamethasone in HIV-infected adults with cryptococcal meningitis: study protocol for a randomised control trial. Trials, 15 (1), pp. 441. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is a severe AIDS-defining illness with 90-day case mortality as high as 70% in sub-Saharan Africa, despite treatment. It is the leading cause of death in HIV patients in Asia and Africa.No major advance has been made in the treatment of CM since the 1970s. The mainstays of induction therapy are amphotericin B and flucytosine, but these are often poorly available where the disease burden is highest. Adjunctive treatments, such as dexamethasone, have had dramatic effects on mortality in other neurologic infections, but are untested in CM. Given the high death rates in patients receiving current optimal treatment, and the lack of new agents on the horizon, adjuvant treatments, which offer the potential to reduce mortality in CM, should be tested.The principal research question posed by this study is as follows: does adding dexamethasone to standard antifungal therapy for CM reduce mortality? Dexamethasone is a cheap, readily available, and practicable intervention. METHOD: A double-blind placebo-controlled trial with parallel arms in which patients are randomised to receive either dexamethasone or placebo, in addition to local standard of care. The study recruits patients in both Asia and Africa to ensure the relevance of its results to the populations in which the disease burden is highest. The 10-week mortality risk in the control group is expected to be between 30% and 50%, depending on location, and the target hazard ratio of 0.7 corresponds to absolute risk reductions in mortality from 30% to 22%, or from 50% to 38%. Assuming an overall 10-week mortality of at least 30% in our study population, recruitment of 824 patients will be sufficient to observe the expected number of deaths. Allowing for some loss to follow-up, the total sample size for this study is 880 patients. To generate robust evidence across both continents, we aim to recruit roughly similar numbers of patients from each continent. The primary end point is 10-week mortality. Ethical approval has been obtained from Oxford University's Tropical Research Ethics Committee (OxTREC), and as locally mandated at each site. TRIAL REGISTRATION: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number: ISRCTN59144167 26-July-2012.

Takala-Harrison S, Jacob CG, Arze C, Cummings MP, Silva JC, Dondorp AM, Fukuda MM, Hien TT, Mayxay M, Noedl H et al. 2015. Independent emergence of artemisinin resistance mutations among Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia. J Infect Dis, 211 (5), pp. 670-679. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The emergence of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia threatens malaria treatment efficacy. Mutations in a kelch protein encoded on P. falciparum chromosome 13 (K13) have been associated with resistance in vitro and in field samples from Cambodia. METHODS: P. falciparum infections from artesunate efficacy trials in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam were genotyped at 33 716 genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Linear mixed models were used to test associations between parasite genotypes and parasite clearance half-lives following artesunate treatment. K13 mutations were tested for association with artemisinin resistance, and extended haplotypes on chromosome 13 were examined to determine whether mutations arose focally and spread or whether they emerged independently. RESULTS: The presence of nonreference K13 alleles was associated with prolonged parasite clearance half-life (P = 1.97 × 10(-12)). Parasites with a mutation in any of the K13 kelch domains displayed longer parasite clearance half-lives than parasites with wild-type alleles. Haplotype analysis revealed both population-specific emergence of mutations and independent emergence of the same mutation in different geographic areas. CONCLUSIONS: K13 appears to be a major determinant of artemisinin resistance throughout Southeast Asia. While we found some evidence of spreading resistance, there was no evidence of resistance moving westward from Cambodia into Myanmar.

Ashley EA, Dhorda M, Fairhurst RM, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Suon S, Sreng S, Anderson JM, Mao S, Sam B et al. 2014. Spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. N Engl J Med, 371 (5), pp. 411-423. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum has emerged in Southeast Asia and now poses a threat to the control and elimination of malaria. Mapping the geographic extent of resistance is essential for planning containment and elimination strategies. METHODS: Between May 2011 and April 2013, we enrolled 1241 adults and children with acute, uncomplicated falciparum malaria in an open-label trial at 15 sites in 10 countries (7 in Asia and 3 in Africa). Patients received artesunate, administered orally at a daily dose of either 2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day or 4 mg per kilogram, for 3 days, followed by a standard 3-day course of artemisinin-based combination therapy. Parasite counts in peripheral-blood samples were measured every 6 hours, and the parasite clearance half-lives were determined. RESULTS: The median parasite clearance half-lives ranged from 1.9 hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 7.0 hours at the Thailand-Cambodia border. Slowly clearing infections (parasite clearance half-life >5 hours), strongly associated with single point mutations in the "propeller" region of the P. falciparum kelch protein gene on chromosome 13 (kelch13), were detected throughout mainland Southeast Asia from southern Vietnam to central Myanmar. The incidence of pretreatment and post-treatment gametocytemia was higher among patients with slow parasite clearance, suggesting greater potential for transmission. In western Cambodia, where artemisinin-based combination therapies are failing, the 6-day course of antimalarial therapy was associated with a cure rate of 97.7% (95% confidence interval, 90.9 to 99.4) at 42 days. CONCLUSIONS: Artemisinin resistance to P. falciparum, which is now prevalent across mainland Southeast Asia, is associated with mutations in kelch13. Prolonged courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies are currently efficacious in areas where standard 3-day treatments are failing. (Funded by the U.K. Department of International Development and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01350856.).

Mayxay M, Khanthavong M, Cox L, Sichanthongthip O, Imwong M, Pongvongsa T, Hongvanthong B, Phompida S, Vanisaveth V, White NJ, Newton PN. 2014. Thiamin supplementation does not reduce the frequency of adverse events after anti-malarial therapy among patients with falciparum malaria in southern Laos. Malar J, 13 (1), pp. 275. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In a recent study one third of Lao patients presenting with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria had biochemical evidence of thiamin deficiency, which was associated with a higher incidence of adverse events. Thiamin supplementation might, therefore, reduce adverse events in this population. METHODS: An exploratory, double-blind, parallel group, placebo-controlled, superiority trial of thiamin supplementation in patients of all ages with uncomplicated and severe falciparum malaria was conducted in Xepon District, Savannakhet Province, southern Laos. Patients were randomly assigned to either oral thiamin 10 mg/day for 7 days immediately after standard anti-malarial treatment then 5 mg daily until day 42, or identical oral placebo. RESULTS: After interim analyses when 630 patients (314 in thiamin and 316 in placebo groups) had been recruited, the trial was discontinued on the grounds of futility. On admission biochemical thiamin deficiency (alpha ≥ 25%) was present in 27% of patients and 9% had severe deficiency (alpha > 31%). After 42 days of treatment, the frequency of thiamin deficiency was lower in the thiamin (2%, 1% severe) compared to the placebo (11%, 3% severe) groups (p < 0.001 and p = 0.05), respectively. Except for diarrhoea, 7% in the placebo compared to 3% in the thiamin group (p = 0.04), and dizziness on day 1 (33% vs 25%, p = 0.045), all adverse events were not significantly different between the groups (p > 0.05). Clinical, haematological, and parasitological responses to treatment did not differ significantly between the two groups. CONCLUSION: Thiamin supplementation reduced biochemical thiamin deficiency among Lao malaria patients following anti-malarial drug treatment, but it did not reduce the frequency of adverse events after anti-malarial therapy or have any detected clinical or parasitological impact. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN 85411059.

Flegg JA, Guérin PJ, Nosten F, Ashley EA, Phyo AP, Dondorp AM, Fairhurst RM, Socheat D, Borrmann S, Björkman A et al. 2013. Optimal sampling designs for estimation of Plasmodium falciparum clearance rates in patients treated with artemisinin derivatives. Malar J, 12 (1), pp. 411. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The emergence of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinins in Southeast Asia threatens the control of malaria worldwide. The pharmacodynamic hallmark of artemisinin derivatives is rapid parasite clearance (a short parasite half-life), therefore, the in vivo phenotype of slow clearance defines the reduced susceptibility to the drug. Measurement of parasite counts every six hours during the first three days after treatment have been recommended to measure the parasite clearance half-life, but it remains unclear whether simpler sampling intervals and frequencies might also be sufficient to reliably estimate this parameter. METHODS: A total of 2,746 parasite density-time profiles were selected from 13 clinical trials in Thailand, Cambodia, Mali, Vietnam, and Kenya. In these studies, parasite densities were measured every six hours until negative after treatment with an artemisinin derivative (alone or in combination with a partner drug). The WWARN Parasite Clearance Estimator (PCE) tool was used to estimate "reference" half-lives from these six-hourly measurements. The effect of four alternative sampling schedules on half-life estimation was investigated, and compared to the reference half-life (time zero, 6, 12, 24 (A1); zero, 6, 18, 24 (A2); zero, 12, 18, 24 (A3) or zero, 12, 24 (A4) hours and then every 12 hours). Statistical bootstrap methods were used to estimate the sampling distribution of half-lives for parasite populations with different geometric mean half-lives. A simulation study was performed to investigate a suite of 16 potential alternative schedules and half-life estimates generated by each of the schedules were compared to the "true" half-life. The candidate schedules in the simulation study included (among others) six-hourly sampling, schedule A1, schedule A4, and a convenience sampling schedule at six, seven, 24, 25, 48 and 49 hours. RESULTS: The median (range) parasite half-life for all clinical studies combined was 3.1 (0.7-12.9) hours. Schedule A1 consistently performed the best, and schedule A4 the worst, both for the individual patient estimates and for the populations generated with the bootstrapping algorithm. In both cases, the differences between the reference and alternative schedules decreased as half-life increased. In the simulation study, 24-hourly sampling performed the worst, and six-hourly sampling the best. The simulation study confirmed that more dense parasite sampling schedules are required to accurately estimate half-life for profiles with short half-life (≤ three hours) and/or low initial parasite density (≤ 10,000 per μL). Among schedules in the simulation study with six or fewer measurements in the first 48 hours, a schedule with measurements at times (time windows) of 0 (0-2), 6 (4-8), 12 (10-14), 24 (22-26), 36 (34-36) and 48 (46-50) hours, or at times 6, 7 (two samples in time window 5-8), 24, 25 (two samples during time 23-26), and 48, 49 (two samples during time 47-50) hours, until negative most accurately estimated the "true" half-life. For a given schedule, continuing sampling after two days had little effect on the estimation of half-life, provided that adequate sampling was performed in the first two days and the half-life was less than three hours. If the measured parasitaemia at two days exceeded 1,000 per μL, continued sampling for at least once a day was needed for accurate half-life estimates. CONCLUSIONS: This study has revealed important insights on sampling schedules for accurate and reliable estimation of Plasmodium falciparum half-life following treatment with an artemisinin derivative (alone or in combination with a partner drug). Accurate measurement of short half-lives (rapid clearance) requires more dense sampling schedules (with more than twice daily sampling). A more intensive sampling schedule is, therefore, recommended in locations where P. falciparum susceptibility to artemisinins is not known and the necessary resources are available. Counting parasite density at six hours is important, and less frequent sampling is satisfactory for estimating long parasite half-lives in areas where artemisinin resistance is present.

Mayxay M, Castonguay-Vanier J, Chansamouth V, Dubot-Pérès A, Paris DH, Phetsouvanh R, Tangkhabuanbutra J, Douangdala P, Inthalath S, Souvannasing P et al. 2013. Causes of non-malarial fever in Laos: a prospective study. Lancet Glob Health, 1 (1), pp. e46-e54. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Because of reductions in the incidence of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Laos, identification of the causes of fever in people without malaria, and discussion of the best empirical treatment options, are urgently needed. We aimed to identify the causes of non-malarial acute fever in patients in rural Laos. METHODS: For this prospective study, we recruited 1938 febrile patients, between May, 2008, and December, 2010, at Luang Namtha provincial hospital in northwest Laos (n=1390), and between September, 2008, and December, 2010, at Salavan provincial hospital in southern Laos (n=548). Eligible participants were aged 5-49 years with fever (≥38°C) lasting 8 days or less and were eligible for malaria testing by national guidelines. FINDINGS: With conservative definitions of cause, we assigned 799 (41%) patients a diagnosis. With exclusion of influenza, the top five diagnoses when only one aetiological agent per patient was identified were dengue (156 [8%] of 1927 patients), scrub typhus (122 [7%] of 1871), Japanese encephalitis virus (112 [6%] of 1924), leptospirosis (109 [6%] of 1934), and bacteraemia (43 [2%] of 1938). 115 (32%) of 358 patients at Luang Namtha hospital tested influenza PCR-positive between June and December, 2010, of which influenza B was the most frequently detected strain (n=121 [87%]). Disease frequency differed significantly between the two sites: Japanese encephalitis virus infection (p=0·04), typhoid (p=0·006), and leptospirosis (p=0·001) were more common at Luang Namtha, whereas dengue and malaria were more common at Salavan (all p<0·0001). With use of evidence from southeast Asia when possible, we estimated that azithromycin, doxycycline, ceftriaxone, and ofloxacin would have had significant efficacy for 258 (13%), 240 (12%), 154 (8%), and 41 (2%) of patients, respectively. INTERPRETATION: Our findings suggest that a wide range of treatable or preventable pathogens are implicated in non-malarial febrile illness in Laos. Empirical treatment with doxycycline for patients with undifferentiated fever and negative rapid diagnostic tests for malaria and dengue could be an appropriate strategy for rural health workers in Laos. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust, WHO-Western Pacific Region, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Phommasone K, Paris DH, Anantatat T, Castonguay-Vanier J, Keomany S, Souvannasing P, Blacksell SD, Mayxay M, Newton PN. 2013. Concurrent Infection with murine typhus and scrub typhus in southern Laos--the mixed and the unmixed. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 7 (8), pp. e2163. | Read more

Mayxay M, Cui W, Thammavong S, Khensakhou K, Vongxay V, Inthasoum L, Sychareun V, Armstrong G. 2013. Dengue in peri-urban Pak-Ngum district, Vientiane capital of Laos: a community survey on knowledge, attitudes and practices. BMC Public Health, 13 (1), pp. 434. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Dengue remains an important cause of morbidity in Laos. Good knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) among the public regarding dengue prevention are required for the success of disease control. Very little is known about dengue KAP among the Lao general population. METHODS: This was a KAP household survey on dengue conducted in a peri-urban Pak-Ngum district of Vientiane capital, Laos. A two-stage cluster sampling method was used to select a sample of participants to represent the general community. Participants from 231 households were surveyed using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. RESULTS: Although 97% of the participants heard of dengue, there was a lack of depth of knowledge on dengue: 33% of them did not know that malaria and dengue were different diseases, 32% incorrectly believed that Aedes mosquito transmits malaria, 36% could not correctly report that Aedes mosquitoes bite most frequently at sunrise and sunset; and < 10% of them recognized that indoor water containers could be Aedes mosquito breeding sites. Attitude levels were moderately good with a high proportion (96%) of participants recognizing that dengue was a severe yet preventable disease. Self reported prevention methods were quite high yet observation of the participants' yards showed use of prevention methods to be only moderate. The majority (93%) of the interviewees did not believe that they had enough information on dengue. There was an association between good knowledge and better practices, but good knowledge was associated with worse attitudes. CONCLUSIONS: There is a lack of depth of knowledge regarding dengue in Pak-Ngum community and observation methods revealed that more needs to be done by community members themselves to prevent the spread of Aedes mosquitoes.

Mayxay M, Hansana V, Sengphilom B, Oulay L, Thammavongsa V, Somphet V, Taykeophithoune C, Nathavong S, Phanthady J, Chareunvong K et al. 2013. Respiratory illness healthcare-seeking behavior assessment in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). BMC Public Health, 13 (1), pp. 444. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Respiratory illness (RI) remains a public health problem in Laos, but little is known about the overall burden and people's healthcare-seeking behavior for RI. Understanding the burden of RI and community patterns of healthcare-seeking behavior would provide better guidance for Lao public health program and policy planners to improve RI public health practice, surveillance systems, and prevention strategies. METHODS: A quantitative and qualitative survey was conducted in 14 randomly selected villages of two purposively selected peri-urban and two rural provinces in Laos. A pre-designed and pre-tested questionnaire was used to collect information on RI in household members (defined as new fever with cough and/or sore-throat in the absence of other diagnoses during the preceding 30 days) from all heads of household in each village. Sixteen focus group discussions were conducted to obtain more information to support the quantitative survey. RESULTS: Among 1,751 households (9,114 people) studied, 3.5% (317/9,114) had experienced RI (fever, cough, and/or sore-throat) in the 30 days before the survey [6.2% in rural and 2.4% in peri-urban areas (p<0.001)]. The percentage of RI among persons aged≥15 years was 2.7%, 3.7% for those aged 5-14 years, and 8.2% for children<5 years (p<0.001). Of all sick persons, 71% sought treatment [94% in peri-urban and 48% in rural areas (p<0.001)] and 31.5% of them self-medicated [55.5% in peri-urban and 29% in rural areas (p<0.001)]. Sick people in peri-urban areas preferred to chose private clinics and pharmacies as their first treatment option while in rural areas they frequently consulted with village health volunteers and visited health centres as their first choice. The qualitative study suggests that distance, costs of care, and service availability are the most important determinants of seeking healthcare. CONCLUSIONS: The RI burden and healthcare-seeking behavior are different between rural and peri-urban areas of Laos and this is probably due to the differences in environmental and hygienic conditions, health service availability and socio-economic status between the two areas. Therefore strategies for healthcare service improvement may also need to differ between the two areas.

Green MD, Mayxay M, Beach R, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Hongvanthong B, Vanisaveth V, Newton PN, Vizcaino L, Swamidoss I. 2013. Evaluation of a rapid colorimetric field test to assess the effective life of long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets in the Lao PDR. Malar J, 12 (1), pp. 57. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria morbidity and mortality have been significantly reduced through the proper use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, but the extra protection afforded by the insecticide diminishes over time. The insecticide depletion rates vary according to location where wash frequency and wear are influenced by cultural habits as well as the availability of water. Monitoring of available insecticides on the net surface is essential for determining the effective life of the net. Therefore, a rapid and inexpensive colorimetric field test for cyanopyrethroids (Cyanopyrethroid Field Test or CFT) was used to measure surface levels of deltamethrin on insecticide-coated polyester nets (PowerNets™) in rural Lao PDR over a two-year period. METHODS: Net surface levels of deltamethrin were measured by wiping the net with filter paper and measuring the adsorbed deltamethrin using the CFT. A relationship between surface levels of deltamethrin and whole net levels was established by comparing results of the CFT with whole levels assayed by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). An effective deltamethrin surface concentration (EC80) was determined by comparing mosquito mortality (WHO Cone Test) with CFT and HPLC results. Five positions (roof to bottom) on each of 23 matched nets were assayed for deltamethrin surface levels at 6, 12, and 24 months. Mosquito mortality assays (WHO Cone Tests) were performed on a subset of eleven 24-month old nets and compared with the proportion of failed nets as predicted by the CFT. RESULTS: At six months, the nets retained about 80% of the baseline (new net) levels of deltamethrin with no significant differences between net positions. At 12 months, ~15-40%, and at 24 months <10% of deltamethrin was retained on the nets, with significant differences appearing between positions. Results from the CFT show that 93% of the nets failed (deltamethrin surface levels </= EC80) at 24 months. This value is in agreement with 91% failure as determined by the WHO Cone Test on a subset of 11 nets. The CFT results show that 50% of the nets from Laos failed at 12 months of normal use. CONCLUSION: The CFT is a useful and accurate indicator of net efficacy and may be substituted for mosquito bioassays.

Rattanavong S, Vongthongchit S, Bounphamala K, Vongphakdy P, Gubler J, Mayxay M, Phetsouvanh R, Elliott I, Logan J, Hill R et al. 2012. Actinomycetoma in SE Asia: the first case from Laos and a review of the literature. BMC Infect Dis, 12 (1), pp. 349. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Mycetoma is a chronic, localized, slowly progressing infection of the cutaneous and subcutaneous tissues caused either by fungi (eumycetoma or implantation mycosis) or by aerobic actinomycetes (actinomycetoma). It is acquired by traumatic implantation, most commonly in the tropics and subtropics, especially in rural agricultural communities. Although well recognized elsewhere in Asia, it has not been reported from the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). CASE PRESENTATION: A 30 year-old female elementary school teacher and rice farmer from northeast Laos was admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, with a massive growth on her left foot, without a history of trauma. The swelling had progressed slowly but painlessly over 5 years and multiple draining sinuses had developed. Ten days before admission the foot had increased considerably in size and became very painful, with multiple sinuses and discharge, preventing her from walking. Gram stain and bacterial culture of tissue biopsies revealed a branching filamentous Gram-positive bacterium that was subsequently identified as Actinomadura madurae by 16S rRNA gene amplification and sequencing. She was treated with long-term co-trimoxazole and multiple 3-week cycles of amikacin with a good therapeutic response. CONCLUSION: We report the first patient with actinomycetoma from Laos. The disease should be considered in the differential diagnosis of chronic skin and bone infections in patients from rural SE Asia.

White LJ, Newton PN, Maude RJ, Pan-ngum W, Fried JR, Mayxay M, Maude RR, Day NPJ. 2012. Defining disease heterogeneity to guide the empirical treatment of febrile illness in resource poor settings. PLoS One, 7 (9), pp. e44545. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria incidence is in decline in many parts of SE Asia leading to a decreasing proportion of febrile illness that is attributable to malaria. However in the absence of rapid, affordable and accurate diagnostic tests, the non-malaria causes of these illnesses cannot be reliably identified. Studies on the aetiology of febrile illness have indicated that the causes are likely to vary by geographical location within countries (i.e. be spatially heterogeneous) and that national empirical treatment policies based on the aetiology measured in a single location could lead to inappropriate treatment. METHODS: Using data from Vientiane as a reference for the incidence of major febrile illnesses in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) and estimated incidences, plausible incidence in other Lao provinces were generated using a mathematical model for a range of national and local scale variations. For a range of treatment protocols, the mean number of appropriate treatments was predicted and the potential impact of a spatially explicit national empirical treatment protocol assessed. FINDINGS: The model predicted a negative correlation between number of appropriate treatments and the level of spatial heterogeneity. A spatially explicit national treatment protocol was predicted to increase the number of appropriate treatments by 50% for intermediate levels of spatial heterogeneity. CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that given even only moderate spatial variation, a spatially explicit treatment algorithm will result in a significant improvement in the outcome of undifferentiated fevers in Laos and other similar resource poor settings.

Sychareun V, Phengsavanh A, Hansana V, Phommachanh S, Mayxay M, Tomson T. 2012. Health policymakers' knowledge and opinions of physicians smoking and tobacco policy control in Lao PDR. BMC Public Health, 12 (1), pp. 816. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In 2007, a regulation on smoke-free health facilities and institutions was adopted by the Lao government. Little is known about health policymakers' knowledge and opinions regarding tobacco policy control, including physicians' behaviour. This paper aims to describe the knowledge of Lao health policymakers and their opinions regarding physicians tobacco use and national smoking policy control. METHODS: In 2007, we made a qualitative explorative study with data from a purposive sample of 18 key informants through semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. The key informants, who were heads of departments, directors of hospitals and directors of centres, mainly worked at the national level, and some provincial levels. Content analysis was used. RESULTS: Policymakers perceived the inadequate implementation of a smoke-free regulation and policy as being a barrier and that the general public may not accept physicians smoking, since they are regarded as role models. Most of the respondents mentioned that regulations or laws related to control of smoking in health institutions are available in Laos, but they lacked detailed knowledge of them probably because regulations as well as the smoke-free policy documents were not widely disseminated. The respondents agreed that anti-smoking education should be integrated in the training curricula, especially in the medical schools, and that the provision of counselling on health consequences from smoking and methods of smoking cessation was important. CONCLUSION: This study contributes to tobacco policy evidence and to knowledge regarding factors related to the uptake of evidence into policymaking. Dissemination and implementation of a tobacco control policy nationally, and integration of tobacco cessation training programs in the curricula were found to be productive approaches for improvement.

Moore CE, Blacksell SD, Taojaikong T, Jarman RG, Gibbons RV, Lee SJ, Chansamouth V, Thongpaseuth S, Mayxay M, Newton PN. 2012. A prospective assessment of the accuracy of commercial IgM ELISAs in diagnosis of Japanese encephalitis virus infections in patients with suspected central nervous system infections in Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 87 (1), pp. 171-178. | Show Abstract | Read more

Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a major cause of encephalitis in Asia. We estimated the diagnostic accuracy of two anti-JEV immunoglobulin M (IgM) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) (Panbio and XCyton JEVCheX) compared with a reference standard (AFRIMS JEV MAC ELISA) in a prospective study of the causes of central nervous system infections in Laos. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF; 515 patients) and serum samples (182 patients) from those admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, were tested. The CSF from 14.5% of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) patients and 10.1% from those with AES and meningitis were positive for anti-JEV IgM in the reference ELISA. The sensitivities for CSF were 65.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 51-78) (Xcyton), 69.2% (95% CI = 55-81) (Panbio), however 96.2% (95% CI = 87-100) with Panbio Ravi criteria. Specificities were 89-100%. For admission sera from AES patients, sensitivities and specificities of the Panbio ELISA were 85.7% (95% CI = 42-100%) and 92.9% (95% CI = 83-98%), respectively.

Mayxay M, Khanthavong M, Chanthongthip O, Imwong M, Pongvongsa T, Hongvanthong B, Phompida S, Vanisaveth V, White NJ, Newton PN. 2012. Efficacy of artemether-lumefantrine, the nationally-recommended artemisinin combination for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria, in southern Laos. Malar J, 11 (1), pp. 184. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The Lao Government changed the national policy for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria from chloroquine to artemether-lumefantrine (AL) in 2005. Since then, no information on AL efficacy has been reported. With evidence of resistance to artemisinin derivatives in adjacent Cambodia, there has been a concern as to AL efficacy. Monitoring of AL efficacy would help the Lao Government to make decisions on appropriate malaria treatment. METHODS: The efficacy of a three-day, twice daily oral artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Xepon District, Savannakhet Province, southern Laos was studied over 42 days follow-up. This was part of a trial of thiamin supplementation in falciparum malaria. RESULTS: Of 630 patients with P. falciparum enrolled in the trial of thiamin treatment, 549 (87%, 357 children ≤15 years and 192 adults) were included in this study. The per protocol 42-day cure rates were 97% (524/541) [96% (337/352) for children and 99% (187/189) for adults, p = 0.042]. By conventional intention-to-treat analysis, the 42-day cure rates adjusted for re-infection, were 97% (532/549) [96% (342/357) in children and 99% (190/192) in adults, p = 0.042]. The proportion of patients who remained parasitaemic at day 1 after treatment was significantly higher in children [33% (116/356)] compared to adults [15% (28/192)] (p < 0.001) and only one adult patient had detectable parasitaemia on day 2. There were no serious adverse events. Potential side effects after treatment were reported more commonly in adults (32%) compared to children (15%) (p < 0.001). Patients with recrudescent infections were significantly younger, had longer mean time to fever clearance, and had longer median time to parasite clearance compared to those who were cured. CONCLUSIONS: The current nationally-recommended anti-malarial treatment (artemether-lumefantrine) remains highly efficacious for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria five years after introduction in Laos. Regular monitoring is required in case artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum parasites should appear. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN85411059.

Cheeseman IH, Miller BA, Nair S, Nkhoma S, Tan A, Tan JC, Al Saai S, Phyo AP, Moo CL, Lwin KM et al. 2012. A major genome region underlying artemisinin resistance in malaria. Science, 336 (6077), pp. 79-82. | Show Abstract | Read more

Evolving resistance to artemisinin-based compounds threatens to derail attempts to control malaria. Resistance has been confirmed in western Cambodia and has recently emerged in western Thailand, but is absent from neighboring Laos. Artemisinin resistance results in reduced parasite clearance rates (CRs) after treatment. We used a two-phase strategy to identify genome region(s) underlying this ongoing selective event. Geographical differentiation and haplotype structure at 6969 polymorphic single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 91 parasites from Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos identified 33 genome regions under strong selection. We screened SNPs and microsatellites within these regions in 715 parasites from Thailand, identifying a selective sweep on chromosome 13 that shows strong association (P = 10(-6) to 10(-12)) with slow CRs, illustrating the efficacy of targeted association for identifying the genetic basis of adaptive traits.

Mayxay M, Khanthavong M, Chanthongthip O, Imwong M, Lee SJ, Stepniewska K, Soonthornsata B, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Hongvanthong B et al. 2012. No evidence for spread of Plasmodium falciparum artemisinin resistance to Savannakhet Province, Southern Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 86 (3), pp. 403-408. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted an open-label, randomized clinical trial to assess parasite clearance times (PCT) and the efficacy of 4 mg/kg (group 1, n = 22) and 2 mg/kg (group 2, n = 22) of oral artesunate for three days followed by artemether-lumefantrine in patients with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria at Xepon Interdistrict Hospital, Savannakhet Province in southern Laos. Slides were read in duplicate. The overall mean (95% confidence interval; range) PCT in hours was 23.2 (21.2-25.3; 12-46) and 22.4 (20.3-24.5; 12-46) for the first and second microscopists, respectively (P = 0.57). Ten (23%) patients remained parasitemic on day 1 after treatment (4 [18%] in group 1 and 6 [27%] in group 2; P = 0.47). No patient had patent asexual parasitemia on the second and third days of treatment. The 42-day polymerase chain reaction-corrected cure rates were 100% in both treatment groups. Serious adverse events did not develop during or after treatment in any patients. In conclusion, no evidence of P. falciparum in vivo resistance to artesunate was found in southern Laos.

Yalcindag E, Elguero E, Arnathau C, Durand P, Akiana J, Anderson TJ, Aubouy A, Balloux F, Besnard P, Bogreau H et al. 2012. Multiple independent introductions of Plasmodium falciparum in South America. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109 (2), pp. 511-516. | Show Abstract | Read more

The origin of Plasmodium falciparum in South America is controversial. Some studies suggest a recent introduction during the European colonizations and the transatlantic slave trade. Other evidence--archeological and genetic--suggests a much older origin. We collected and analyzed P. falciparum isolates from different regions of the world, encompassing the distribution range of the parasite, including populations from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South America. Analyses of microsatellite and SNP polymorphisms show that the populations of P. falciparum in South America are subdivided in two main genetic clusters (northern and southern). Phylogenetic analyses, as well as Approximate Bayesian Computation methods suggest independent introductions of the two clusters from African sources. Our estimates of divergence time between the South American populations and their likely sources favor a likely introduction from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade.

Mok S, Imwong M, Mackinnon MJ, Sim J, Ramadoss R, Yi P, Mayxay M, Chotivanich K, Liong K-Y, Russell B et al. 2011. Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum is associated with an altered temporal pattern of transcription. BMC Genomics, 12 (1), pp. 391. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria has emerged in Western Cambodia. This is a major threat to global plans to control and eliminate malaria as the artemisinins are a key component of antimalarial treatment throughout the world. To identify key features associated with the delayed parasite clearance phenotype, we employed DNA microarrays to profile the physiological gene expression pattern of the resistant isolates. RESULTS: In the ring and trophozoite stages, we observed reduced expression of many basic metabolic and cellular pathways which suggests a slower growth and maturation of these parasites during the first half of the asexual intraerythrocytic developmental cycle (IDC). In the schizont stage, there is an increased expression of essentially all functionalities associated with protein metabolism which indicates the prolonged and thus increased capacity of protein synthesis during the second half of the resistant parasite IDC. This modulation of the P. falciparum intraerythrocytic transcriptome may result from differential expression of regulatory proteins such as transcription factors or chromatin remodeling associated proteins. In addition, there is a unique and uniform copy number variation pattern in the Cambodian parasites which may represent an underlying genetic background that contributes to the resistance phenotype. CONCLUSIONS: The decreased metabolic activities in the ring stages are consistent with previous suggestions of higher resilience of the early developmental stages to artemisinin. Moreover, the increased capacity of protein synthesis and protein turnover in the schizont stage may contribute to artemisinin resistance by counteracting the protein damage caused by the oxidative stress and/or protein alkylation effect of this drug. This study reports the first global transcriptional survey of artemisinin resistant parasites and provides insight to the complexities of the molecular basis of pathogens with drug resistance phenotypes in vivo.

Khennavong M, Davone V, Vongsouvath M, Phetsouvanh R, Silisouk J, Rattana O, Mayxay M, Castonguay-Vanier J, Moore CE, Strobel M, Newton PN. 2011. Urine antibiotic activity in patients presenting to hospitals in Laos: implications for worsening antibiotic resistance. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 85 (2), pp. 295-302. | Show Abstract | Read more

Widespread use of antibiotics may be important in the spread of antimicrobial resistance. We estimated the proportion of Lao in- and outpatients who had taken antibiotics before medical consultation by detecting antibiotic activity in their urine added to lawns of Bacillus stearothermophilus, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus pyogenes. In the retrospective (N = 2,058) and prospective studies (N = 1,153), 49.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 47.4-52.0) and 36.2% (95% CI = 33.4-38.9), respectively, of Vientiane patients had urinary antibiotic activity detected. The highest frequency of estimated antibiotic pre-treatment was found in patients recruited with suspected central nervous system infections and community-acquired septicemia (both 56.8%). In Vientiane, children had a higher frequency of estimated antibiotic pre-treatment than adults (60.0% versus 46.5%; P < 0.001). Antibiotic use based on patients histories was significantly less frequent than when estimated from urinary antibiotic activity (P < 0.0001).

Slesak G, Mounlaphome K, Inthalad S, Phoutsavath O, Mayxay M, Newton PN. 2011. Bowel obstruction from wild bananas: a neglected health problem in Laos. Trop Doct, 41 (2), pp. 85-90. | Show Abstract | Read more

We investigated the significance and risk factors of bowel obstruction caused by the consumption of wild bananas (BOWB) in Laos. Of six patients with BOWB in Luang Namtha, North Laos, five required enterotomy for phytobezoars. All had eaten wild banana (WB) seeds. Of 227 other patients/relatives: 91.2% had eaten WB; 46.3% had also eaten the seeds and 45.4% knew of complications resulting from eating WB; 42.3% were aware of the complications of ingesting the seeds (constipation [37.9%], appendicitis/abdominal pain/vomiting [2.6% each] and bloated stomach/death [1.3% each]). Middle/highland Lao ethnicity was associated with WB and seed consumption (odds ratio [OR] 9.91 and 2.33), male sex with WB consumption and unawareness (OR 4.31 and 1.78). At all surgically-equipped hospitals in Laos, 33/44 doctors knew of BOWB, describing patients as young adults (16/30), male (24/30) and from middleland Lao (18/30). Countrywide, 46/48 patients with BOWB required laparotomy in 2009 (incidence 0.8/100,000). All consumed WB seeds. BOWB is widespread in Laos, especially among young middleland Lao men consuming WB seeds on an empty stomach.

Khounnorath S, Chamberlain K, Taylor AM, Soukaloun D, Mayxay M, Lee SJ, Phengdy B, Luangxay K, Sisouk K, Soumphonphakdy B et al. 2011. Clinically unapparent infantile thiamin deficiency in Vientiane, Laos. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 5 (2), pp. e969. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Beriberi occurs in Vientiane, Lao PDR, among breastfed infants. Clinical disease may be the tip of an iceberg with subclinical thiamin deficiency contributing to other illnesses. Thiamin treatment could improve outcome. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: A cohort of 778 sick infants admitted during one year without clinical evidence of beriberi were studied prospectively and erythrocyte transketolase assays (ETK) performed. Biochemical thiamin deficiency was defined both in terms of the activation coefficient (α>31%) and basal ETK activity <0.59 micromoles/min/gHb. Of the 778 infants, median (range) age was 5 (0-12) months, 79.2% were breastfed, 5.1% had α>31% and 13.4 % basal ETK<0.59 micromoles/min/gHb. Infants≥2 months old had a higher frequency of biochemical markers of thiamin deficiency. Mortality was 5.5% but, among infants ≥2 months old, mortality was higher in those with basal ETK<0.59 micromoles/min/gHb (3/47, 6.4%) than in those with basal ETK≥0.59 micromoles/min/gHb (1/146, 0.7%) (P=0.045, relative risk=9.32 (95%CI 0.99 to 87.5)). Multivariate regression analysis indicated that infant age≥2 months and fewer maternal years of schooling were independently associated with infant basal ETK<0.59 micromoles/min/gHb. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Clinically unapparent thiamin deficiency is common among sick infants (≥2 months old) admitted to hospital in Vientiane. This may contribute to mortality and a low clinical threshold for providing thiamin to sick infants may be needed.

Soukaloun D, Lee SJ, Chamberlain K, Taylor AM, Mayxay M, Sisouk K, Soumphonphakdy B, Latsavong K, Akkhavong K, Phommachanh D et al. 2011. Erythrocyte transketolase activity, markers of cardiac dysfunction and the diagnosis of infantile beriberi. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 5 (2), pp. e971. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Infantile beriberi is a potentially lethal manifestation of thiamin deficiency, associated with traditional post-partum maternal food avoidance, which persists in the Lao PDR (Laos). There are few data on biochemical markers of infantile thiamin deficiency or indices of cardiac dysfunction as potential surrogate markers. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: A case control study of 47 infants with beriberi and age-matched afebrile and febrile controls was conducted in Vientiane, Laos. Basal and activated erythrocyte transketolase activities (ETK) and activation (α) coefficients were assayed along with plasma brain natriuretic peptide, N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide and troponin T. Basal ETK (and to a lesser extent activated ETK) and plasma troponin T were the only infant biochemical markers that predicted infantile beriberi. A basal ETK ≤ 0.59 micromoles/min/gHb gave a sensitivity (95%CI) of 75.0 (47.6 to 92.7)% and specificity (95%CI) of 85.2 (66.3 to 95.8)% for predicting infantile beriberi (OR (95%CI) 15.9 (2.03-124.2); p = 0.008) (area under ROC curve = 0.80). In contrast, the α coefficient did not discriminate between cases and controls. Maternal basal ETK was linearly correlated with infant basal ETK (Pearson's r = 0.66, p < 0.001). The odds of beriberi in infants with detectable plasma troponin T was 3.4 times higher in comparison to infants without detectable troponin T (OR 3.4, 95%CI 1.22-9.73, p = 0.019). Detectable troponin T had a sensitivity (95%CI) of 78.6 (59.0 to 91.7) % and specificity (95%CI) of 56.1 (39.7 to 71.5) % for predicting infantile beriberi. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Basal ETK is a more accurate biochemical marker of infantile beriberi than the activation coefficient. Raised plasma troponin T may be a useful indicator of infantile beriberi in infants at risk and in the absence of other evident causes.

Mayxay M, Keomany S, Khanthavong M, Souvannasing P, Stepniewska K, Khomthilath T, Keola S, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Ubben D et al. 2010. A phase III, randomized, non-inferiority trial to assess the efficacy and safety of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine in comparison with artesunate-mefloquine in patients with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in southern Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 83 (6), pp. 1221-1229. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted an open, randomized clinical trial of oral dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) versus artesunate-mefloquine (AM) in 300 patients in Laos with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria as part of a multicentre study in Asia. Survival analysis and adjustment for re-infection showed that the 63-day cure rates (95% confidence interval [CI]) were 100% for AM and 99.5% (96.4-99.8%) for DP. The 63-day cure rates per protocol were 99% (97 of 98) for AM and 99.5% (196 of 197) for DP (P = 0.55). The difference (AM minus DP) in cure rates (95% CI) was -0.5% (-5.1 to 2.0%), which is within the 5% non-inferiority margin. The median fever and parasite clearance times were also similar for AM and DP. The proportion of patients with at least one recorded potential adverse event was significantly higher in the AM group (38 of 87, 44%) than in the DP group (57 of 182, 31%) (relative risk = 0.6, 95% CI = 0.4-0.9; P = 0.04). Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine is not inferior to AM in the treatment of uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in Laos and is associated with fewer adverse effects. The results of this study were similar to those of the larger multicentre study.

Mayxay M, Phetsouvanh R, Moore CE, Chansamouth V, Vongsouvath M, Sisouphone S, Vongphachanh P, Thaojaikong T, Thongpaseuth S, Phongmany S et al. 2011. Predictive diagnostic value of the tourniquet test for the diagnosis of dengue infection in adults. Trop Med Int Health, 16 (1), pp. 127-133. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To examine the accuracy of the admission tourniquet test in the diagnosis of dengue infection among Lao adults. METHODS: Prospective assessment of the predictive diagnostic value of the tourniquet test for the diagnosis of dengue infection, as defined by IgM, IgG and NS1 ELISAs (Panbio Ltd, Australia), among Lao adult inpatients with clinically suspected dengue infection. RESULTS: Of 234 patients with clinically suspected dengue infection on admission, 73% were serologically confirmed to have dengue, while 64 patients with negative dengue serology were diagnosed as having scrub typhus (39%), murine typhus (11%), undetermined typhus (12%), Japanese encephalitis virus (5%), undetermined flavivirus (5%) and typhoid fever (3%); 25% had no identifiable aetiology. The tourniquet test was positive in 29.1% (95% CI = 23.2-34.9%) of all patients and in 34.1% (95% CI = 27.0-41.2%) of dengue-seropositive patients, in 32.7% (95% CI = 23.5-41.8) of those with dengue fever and in 36.4% (95% CI = 24.7-48.0) of those with dengue haemorrhagic fever. Interobserver agreement for the tourniquet test was 90.2% (95% CI = 86.4-94.0) (Kappa = 0.76). Using ELISAs as the diagnostic gold standard, the sensitivity of the tourniquet test was 33.5-34%; its specificity was 84-91%. The positive and negative predictive values were 85-90% and 32.5-34%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The admission tourniquet test has low sensitivity and adds relatively little value to the diagnosis of dengue among Lao adult inpatients with suspected dengue. Although a positive tourniquet test suggests dengue and that treatment of alternative diagnoses may not be needed, a negative test result does not exclude dengue.

Valecha N, Phyo AP, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Krudsood S, Keomany S, Khanthavong M, Pongvongsa T, Ruangveerayuth R, Uthaisil C et al. 2010. An open-label, randomised study of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine versus artesunate-mefloquine for falciparum malaria in Asia. PLoS One, 5 (7), pp. e11880. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The artemisinin-based combination treatment (ACT) of dihydroartemisinin (DHA) and piperaquine (PQP) is a promising novel anti-malarial drug effective against multi-drug resistant falciparum malaria. The aim of this study was to show non-inferiority of DHA/PQP vs. artesunate-mefloquine (AS+MQ) in Asia. METHODS AND FINDINGS: This was an open-label, randomised, non-inferiority, 63-day follow-up study conducted in Thailand, Laos and India. Patients aged 3 months to 65 years with Plasmodium falciparum mono-infection or mixed infection were randomised with an allocation ratio of 2:1 to a fixed-dose DHA/PQP combination tablet (adults: 40 mg/320 mg; children: 20 mg/160 [DOSAGE ERROR CORRECTED] mg; n = 769) or loose combination of AS+MQ (AS: 50 mg, MQ: 250 mg; n = 381). The cumulative doses of study treatment over the 3 days were of about 6.75 mg/kg of DHA and 54 mg/kg of PQP and about 12 mg/kg of AS and 25 mg/kg of MQ. Doses were rounded up to the nearest half tablet. The primary endpoint was day-63 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) genotype-corrected cure rate. Results were 87.9% for DHA/PQP and 86.6% for AS+MQ in the intention-to-treat (ITT; 97.5% one-sided confidence interval, CI: >-2.87%), and 98.7% and 97.0%, respectively, in the per protocol population (97.5% CI: >-0.39%). No country effect was observed. Kaplan-Meier estimates of proportions of patients with new infections on day 63 (secondary endpoint) were significantly lower for DHA/PQP than AS+MQ: 22.7% versus 30.3% (p = 0.0042; ITT). Overall gametocyte prevalence (days 7 to 63; secondary endpoint), measured as person-gametocyte-weeks, was significantly higher for DHA/PQP than AS+MQ (10.15% versus 4.88%; p = 0.003; ITT). Fifteen serious adverse events were reported, 12 (1.6%) in DHA/PQP and three (0.8%) in AS+MQ, among which six (0.8%) were considered related to DHA/PQP and three (0.8%) to AS+MQ. CONCLUSIONS: DHA/PQP was a highly efficacious drug for P. falciparum malaria in areas where multidrug parasites are prevalent. The DHA/PQP combination can play an important role in the first-line treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Controlled-Trials.com ISRCTN81306618.

Syhavong B, Rasachack B, Smythe L, Rolain J-M, Roque-Afonso A-M, Jenjaroen K, Soukkhaserm V, Phongmany S, Phetsouvanh R, Soukkhaserm S et al. 2010. The infective causes of hepatitis and jaundice amongst hospitalised patients in Vientiane, Laos. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 104 (7), pp. 475-483. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is little information on the diverse infectious causes of jaundice and hepatitis in the Asiatic tropics. Serology (hepatitis A, B, C and E, leptospirosis, dengue, rickettsia), antigen tests (dengue), PCR assays (hepatitis A, C and E) and blood cultures (septicaemia) were performed on samples from 392 patients admitted with jaundice or raised transaminases (> or =x3) to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos over 3 years. Conservative definitions suggested diagnoses of dengue (8.4%), rickettsioses (7.3%), leptospirosis (6.8%), hepatitis B (4.9%), hepatitis C (4.9%), community-acquired septicaemia (3.3%) and hepatitis E (1.6%). Although anti-hepatitis A virus (HAV) IgM antibody results suggested that 35.8% of patients had acute HAV infections, anti-HAV IgG antibody avidity and HAV PCR suggested that 82% had polyclonal activation and not acute HAV infections. Scrub typhus, murine typhus or leptospirosis were present in 12.8% of patients and were associated with meningism and relatively low AST and ALT elevation. These patients would be expected to respond to empirical doxycycline therapy which, in the absence of virological diagnosis and treatment, may be an appropriate cost-effective intervention in Lao patients with jaundice/hepatitis.

Nair S, Nkhoma S, Nosten F, Mayxay M, French N, Whitworth J, Anderson T. 2010. Genetic changes during laboratory propagation: copy number At the reticulocyte-binding protein 1 locus of Plasmodium falciparum. Mol Biochem Parasitol, 172 (2), pp. 145-148. | Show Abstract | Read more

Comparative genomic hybridization studies have revealed elevated copy number (CN) at the reticulocyte-binding protein 1 gene (PfRh1) in fast growing lab-adapted parasites, while genetic manipulation demonstrates a causal link between cell invasion and PfRh1 CN. We therefore examined PfRh1 copy number variation (CNV) in 202 single clone parasite isolates from four countries to quantify the extent of CNV within natural populations. Surprisingly, we found that no natural parasite infections showed elevated CN. In contrast, 4/28 independent laboratory reference strains show elevated CN. One possibility is that amplification of PfRh1 (or neighboring loci) is selected during laboratory culture. In the case of FCR3 group of parasites, clone trees show that PfRh1 amplification arose in laboratory lines following establishment in culture. These data show that CNV at PfRh1 is rare or non-existent in natural populations, but can arise during laboratory propagation. We conclude that PfRh1 CNV is not an important determinant of gene expression, cell invasion or growth rate in natural parasite populations.

Stepniewska K, Ashley E, Lee SJ, Anstey N, Barnes KI, Binh TQ, D'Alessandro U, Day NPJ, de Vries PJ, Dorsey G et al. 2010. In vivo parasitological measures of artemisinin susceptibility. J Infect Dis, 201 (4), pp. 570-579. | Show Abstract | Read more

Parasite clearance data from 18,699 patients with falciparum malaria treated with an artemisinin derivative in areas of low (n=14,539), moderate (n=2077), and high (n=2083) levels of malaria transmission across the world were analyzed to determine the factors that affect clearance rates and identify a simple in vivo screening measure for artemisinin resistance. The main factor affecting parasite clearance time was parasite density on admission. Clearance rates were faster in high-transmission settings and with more effective partner drugs in artemisinin-based combination treatments (ACTs). The result of the malaria blood smear on day 3 (72 h) was a good predictor of subsequent treatment failure and provides a simple screening measure for artemisinin resistance. Artemisinin resistance is highly unlikely if the proportion of patients with parasite densities of <100,000 parasites/microL given the currently recommended 3-day ACT who have a positive smear result on day 3 is <3%; that is, for n patients the observed number with a positive smear result on day 3 does not exceed (n + 60)/24.

Newton PN, Rolain J-M, Rasachak B, Mayxay M, Vathanatham K, Seng P, Phetsouvanh R, Thammavong T, Zahidi J, Suputtamongkol Y et al. 2009. Sennetsu neorickettsiosis: a probable fish-borne cause of fever rediscovered in Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 81 (2), pp. 190-194. | Show Abstract | Read more

Neorickettsia sennetsu has been described from Japan and Malaysia, causing a largely forgotten infectious mononucleosis-like disease. Because it is believed to be contracted from eating raw fish, frequently consumed in the Lao PDR, we looked for evidence of N. sennetsu among Lao patients and fish. A buffy coat from 1 of 91 patients with undifferentiated fever was positive by 16S rRNA amplification and sequencing and real-time polymerase chain reactions (PCR) targeting two N. sennetsu genes. Lao blood donors and patients with fever, hepatitis, or jaundice (N = 1,132) had a high prevalence (17%) of immunofluorescence assay IgG anti-N. sennetsu antibodies compared with 4% and 0% from febrile patients (N = 848) in Thailand and Malaysia, respectively. We found N. sennetsu DNA by PCR, for the first time, in a fish (Anabas testudineus). These data suggest that sennetsu may be an under-recognized cause of fever and are consistent with the hypothesis that it may be contracted from eating raw fish.

Zwang J, Ashley EA, Karema C, D'Alessandro U, Smithuis F, Dorsey G, Janssens B, Mayxay M, Newton P, Singhasivanon P et al. 2009. Safety and efficacy of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine in falciparum malaria: a prospective multi-centre individual patient data analysis. PLoS One, 4 (7), pp. e6358. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The fixed dose antimalarial combination of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) is a promising new artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). We present an individual patient data analysis of efficacy and tolerability in acute uncomplicated falciparum malaria, from seven published randomized clinical trials conducted in Africa and South East Asia using a predefined in-vivo protocol. Comparator drugs were mefloquine-artesunate (MAS3) in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia; artemether-lumefantrine in Uganda; and amodiaquine+sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and artesunate+amodiaquine in Rwanda. METHODS AND FINDINGS: In total 3,547 patients were enrolled: 1,814 patients (32% children under five years) received DP and 1,733 received a comparator antimalarial at 12 different sites and were followed for 28-63 days. There was no significant heterogeneity between trials. DP was well tolerated with 1.7% early vomiting. There were less adverse events with DP in children and adults compared to MAS3 except for diarrhea; ORs (95%CI) 2.74 (2.13 to 3.51) and 3.11 (2.31 to 4.18), respectively. DP treatment resulted in a rapid clearance of fever and parasitaemia. The PCR genotype corrected efficacy at Day 28 of DP assessed by survival analysis was 98.7% (95%CI 97.6-99.8). DP was superior to the comparator drugs in protecting against both P.falciparum recurrence and recrudescence (P = 0.001, weighted by site). There was no difference between DP and MAS3 in treating P. vivax co-infections and in suppressing the first relapse (median interval to P. vivax recurrence: 6 weeks). Children under 5 y were at higher risk of recurrence for both infections. The proportion of patients developing gametocytaemia (P = 0.002, weighted by site) and the subsequent gametocyte carriage rates were higher with DP (11/1000 person gametocyte week, PGW) than MAS3 (6/1000 PGW, P = 0.001, weighted by site). CONCLUSIONS: DP proved a safe, well tolerated, and highly effective treatment of P.falciparum malaria in Asia and Africa, but the effect on gametocyte carriage was inferior to that of MAS3.

Slesak G, Douangdala P, Inthalad S, Silisouk J, Vongsouvath M, Sengduangphachanh A, Moore CE, Mayxay M, Matsuoka H, Newton PN. 2009. Fatal Chromobacterium violaceum septicaemia in northern Laos, a modified oxidase test and post-mortem forensic family G6PD analysis. Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob, 8 (1), pp. 24. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Chromobacterium violaceum is a Gram negative facultative anaerobic bacillus, found in soil and stagnant water, that usually has a violet pigmented appearance on agar culture. It is rarely described as a human pathogen, mostly from tropical and subtropical areas. CASE PRESENTATION: A 53 year-old farmer died with Chromobacterium violaceum septicemia in Laos. A modified oxidase method was used to demonstrate that this violacious organism was oxidase positive. Forensic analysis of the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase genotypes of his family suggest that the deceased patient did not have this possible predisposing condition. CONCLUSION: C. violaceum infection should be included in the differential diagnosis in patients presenting with community-acquired septicaemia in tropical and subtropical areas. The apparently neglected but simple modified oxidase test may be useful in the oxidase assessment of other violet-pigmented organisms or of those growing on violet coloured agar.

Nair S, Miller B, Barends M, Jaidee A, Patel J, Mayxay M, Newton P, Nosten F, Ferdig MT, Anderson TJC. 2008. Adaptive copy number evolution in malaria parasites. PLoS Genet, 4 (10), pp. e1000243. | Show Abstract | Read more

Copy number polymorphism (CNP) is ubiquitous in eukaryotic genomes, but the degree to which this reflects the action of positive selection is poorly understood. The first gene in the Plasmodium folate biosynthesis pathway, GTP-cyclohydrolase I (gch1), shows extensive CNP. We provide compelling evidence that gch1 CNP is an adaptive consequence of selection by antifolate drugs, which target enzymes downstream in this pathway. (1) We compared gch1 CNP in parasites from Thailand (strong historical antifolate selection) with those from neighboring Laos (weak antifolate selection). Two percent of chromosomes had amplified copy number in Laos, while 72% carried multiple (2-11) copies in Thailand, and differentiation exceeded that observed at 73 synonymous SNPs. (2) We found five amplicon types containing one to greater than six genes and spanning 1 to >11 kb, consistent with parallel evolution and strong selection for this gene amplification. gch1 was the only gene occurring in all amplicons suggesting that this locus is the target of selection. (3) We observed reduced microsatellite variation and increased linkage disequilibrium (LD) in a 900-kb region flanking gch1 in parasites from Thailand, consistent with rapid recent spread of chromosomes carrying multiple copies of gch1. (4) We found that parasites bearing dhfr-164L, which causes high-level resistance to antifolate drugs, carry significantly (p = 0.00003) higher copy numbers of gch1 than parasites bearing 164I, indicating functional association between genes located on different chromosomes but linked in the same biochemical pathway. These results demonstrate that CNP at gch1 is adaptive and the associations with dhfr-164L strongly suggest a compensatory function. More generally, these data demonstrate how selection affects multiple enzymes in a single biochemical pathway, and suggest that investigation of structural variation may provide a fast-track to locating genes underlying adaptation.

Keoluangkhot V, Green MD, Nyadong L, Fernández FM, Mayxay M, Newton PN. 2008. Impaired clinical response in a patient with uncomplicated falciparum malaria who received poor-quality and underdosed intramuscular artemether. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 78 (4), pp. 552-555. | Show Abstract | Read more

We describe an adult with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria who did not improve clinically despite 5 days of intramuscular artemether therapy. He was prescribed a lower dose (kg body weight) than that recommended, and a vial from the packet contained only 74% of the artemether dose as stated by the manufacturer. The combination of underdosing, poor-quality drug, and the intrinsic low bioavailability of artemether may have contributed to his poor clinical response. Analysis of the packaging and chemical "fingerprinting" of the artemether suggested that the drug was genuine but was either substandard or had deteriorated after manufacture.

Lee SJ, Stepniewska K, Anstey N, Ashley E, Barnes K, Binh TQ, D'Alessandro U, Day NPJ, de Vries PJ, Dorsey G et al. 2008. The relationship between the haemoglobin concentration and the haematocrit in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Malar J, 7 (1), pp. 149. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria is a very important cause of anaemia in tropical countries. Anaemia is assessed either by measurement of the haematocrit or the haemoglobin concentration. For comparisons across studies, it is often necessary to derive one measure from the other. METHODS: Data on patients with slide-confirmed uncomplicated falciparum malaria were pooled from 85 antimalarial drug trials conducted in 25 different countries, to assess the haemoglobin/haematocrit relationship at different time points in malaria. Using a linear random effects model, a conversion equation for haematocrit was derived based on 3,254 measurements from various time points (ranging from day 0 to day 63) from 1,810 patients with simultaneous measurements of both parameters. Haemoglobin was also estimated from haematocrit with the commonly used threefold conversion. RESULTS: A good fit was obtained using Haematocrit = 5.62 + 2.60 * Haemoglobin. On average, haematocrit/3 levels were slightly higher than haemoglobin measurements with a mean difference (+/- SD) of -0.69 (+/- 1.3) for children under the age of 5 (n = 1,440 measurements from 449 patients). CONCLUSION: Based on this large data set, an accurate and robust conversion factor both in acute malaria and in convalescence was obtained. The commonly used threefold conversion is also valid.

Keomany S, Mayxay M, Souvannasing P, Vilayhong C, Stuart BL, Srour L, Newton PN. 2007. Toad poisoning in Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 77 (5), pp. 850-853. | Show Abstract | Read more

We describe two patients who developed severe illness after eating the skin and eggs of a toad, probably Bufo melanostictus Schneider, in southeastern Laos. One boy died, and one developed a digoxin toxicity-like syndrome with bradycardia and heart failure but survived. A telephone survey of 16 Lao provincial hospitals suggested that toad poisoning occurs in at least six provinces. That 93% of villagers in three villages in southeastern Laos were aware that toads are poisonous but that 51% had encountered patients with toad toxicity suggests that the potential gravity is not appreciated. These data indicate that toad poisoning may be underestimated and that education on the seriousness of toad toxins could be a useful public health measure.

Tanomsing N, Imwong M, Pukrittayakamee S, Chotivanich K, Looareesuwan S, Mayxay M, Dolecek C, Hien TT, do Rosario VE, Arez AP et al. 2007. Genetic analysis of the dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase gene from geographically diverse isolates of Plasmodium malariae. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 51 (10), pp. 3523-3530. | Show Abstract | Read more

Plasmodium malariae, the parasite responsible for quartan malaria, is transmitted in most areas of malaria endemicity and is associated with significant morbidity. The sequence of the gene coding for the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase (DHFR-TS) was obtained from field isolates of P. malariae and from the closely related simian parasite Plasmodium brasilianum. The two sequences were nearly 100% homologous, adding weight to the notion that they represent genetically distinct lines of the same species. A survey of polymorphisms of the dhfr sequences in 35 isolates of P. malariae collected from five countries in Asia and Africa revealed a low number of nonsynonymous mutations in five codons. In five of the isolates collected from southeast Asia, a nonsynonymous mutation was found at one of the three positions known to be associated with antifolate resistance in other Plasmodium species. Five isolates with the wild-type DHFR could be assayed for drug susceptibility in vitro and were found to be sensitive to pyrimethamine (mean 50% inhibitory concentration, 2.24 ng/ml [95% confidence interval, 0.4 to 3.1]).

Mayxay M, Nair S, Sudimack D, Imwong M, Tanomsing N, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Phetsouvanh R, White NJ, Anderson TJC, Newton PN. 2007. Combined molecular and clinical assessment of Plasmodium falciparum antimalarial drug resistance in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). Am J Trop Med Hyg, 77 (1), pp. 36-43. | Show Abstract | Read more

Molecular markers provide a rapid and relatively inexpensive approach for assessing antimalarial drug susceptibility. We collected 884 Plasmodium falciparum-infected blood samples from 17 Lao provinces. Each sample was genotyped for 11 codons in the chloroquine resistance transporter (pfcrt), dihydrofolate reductase (pfdhfr), and dihydropteroate synthase (pfdhps) genes. The samples included 227 collected from patients recruited to clinical trials. The pfcrt K76T mutation was an excellent predictor of treatment failure for both chloroquine and chloroquine plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, and mutations in both pfdhfr and pfdhps were predictive of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine treatment failure. In multivariate analysis, the presence of the pfdhfr triple mutation (51 + 59 + 108) was strongly and independently correlated with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine failure (odds ratio = 9.1, 95% confidence interval = 1.4-60.2, P = 0.017). Considerable geographic heterogeneity in allele frequencies occurred at all three loci with lower frequencies of mutant alleles in southern than in northern Laos. These findings suggest that chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are no longer viable therapy in this country.

Imwong M, Nair S, Pukrittayakamee S, Sudimack D, Williams JT, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Kim JR, Nandy A, Osorio L et al. 2007. Contrasting genetic structure in Plasmodium vivax populations from Asia and South America. Int J Parasitol, 37 (8-9), pp. 1013-1022. | Show Abstract | Read more

Populations of Plasmodium falciparum show striking differences in linkage disequilibrium, population differentiation and diversity, but only fragmentary data exists on the genetic structure of Plasmodium vivax. We genotyped nine tandem repeat loci bearing 2-8 bp motifs from 345 P. vivax infections collected from three Asian countries and from five locations in Colombia. We observed 9-37 alleles per locus and high diversity (He=0.72-0.79, mean=0.75) in all countries. Numbers of multiple clone infections varied considerably: these were rare in Colombia and India, but > 60% of isolates carried multiple alleles in at least one locus in Thailand and Laos. However, only one or two of the nine loci show >1 allele in many samples, suggesting that mutation within infections may result in overestimation of true multiple carriage rates. Identical nine-locus genotypes were frequently found in Colombian populations, contributing to strong linkage disequilibrium. These identical genotypes were strongly clustered in time, consistent with epidemic transmission of clones and subsequent breakdown of allelic associations, suggesting high rates of inbreeding and low effective recombination rates in this country. In contrast, identical genotypes were rare and loci were randomly associated in all three Asian populations, consistent with higher rates of outcrossing and recombination. We observed low but significant differentiation between different Asian countries (standardized FST = 0.13-0.45). In comparison, we see greater differentiation between collection locations within Colombia (standardized FST = 0.4-0.7), and strong differentiation between continents (standardized FST = 0.48-0.79). The observed heterogeneity in multiple clone carriage rates, linkage disequilibrium and population differentiation are similar in some, but not all, respects to those observed in P. falciparum, and have important implications for the design of association mapping studies, and interpretation of P. vivax epidemiology.

Mayxay M, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Phetsouvanh R, White NJ, Newton PN. 2007. Diagnosis and management of malaria by rural community health providers in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). Trop Med Int Health, 12 (4), pp. 540-546. | Show Abstract | Read more

We assessed the knowledge of malaria diagnosis and management by community health providers in rural Vientiane and Savannakhet Provinces, Lao PDR. Sixty health providers (17 pharmacy owners/drug sellers and 43 village health volunteers) were interviewed. All diagnosed malaria using symptoms and signs only; 14% were aware of >2 criteria for the diagnosis of severe malaria. Although chloroquine and quinine, the then recommended Lao national policy for uncomplicated malaria treatment, were the most common antimalarials prescribed - 65% gave incorrect doses and 70% did not know the side effects. Although not recommended by the then national policy, 27% of the health providers used combinations of antimalarials as they considered monotherapy ineffective. This study strongly suggests that further training of Lao rural health providers in malaria diagnosis and management is needed to improve the quality of health services in areas remote from district hospitals.

Mayxay M, Taylor AM, Khanthavong M, Keola S, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Phetsouvanh R, White NJ, Newton PN. 2007. Thiamin deficiency and uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Laos. Trop Med Int Health, 12 (3), pp. 363-369. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: Thiamin deficiency complicates severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Thailand and may contribute to acidosis. We therefore estimated the frequency of biochemical thiamin deficiency in patients presenting with uncomplicated falciparum malaria in southern Laos. METHODS: Red cell transketolase activation coefficients (alpha) were measured in 310 patients presenting with uncomplicated falciparum malaria and 42 days after starting treatment. RESULTS: Twelve per cent of patients had biochemical evidence of severe deficiency (alpha values >1.31) at presentation, declining to 3% 42 days later. CONCLUSION: Thiamin deficiency was common in Lao patients admitted with uncomplicated P. falciparum infection and was reduced following treatment of malaria and multivitamin supplementation. The role of this preventable and treatable disorder in malaria and other acute infections, and the incidence of beriberi in rural Laos, needs further investigation.

Mayxay M, Barends M, Brockman A, Jaidee A, Nair S, Sudimack D, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Phetsouvanh R, Anderson T et al. 2007. In vitro antimalarial drug susceptibility and pfcrt mutation among fresh Plasmodium falciparum isolates from the Lao PDR (Laos). Am J Trop Med Hyg, 76 (2), pp. 245-250. | Show Abstract | Read more

Recent drug trials in Laos have shown high levels of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to chloroquine, but there are no published data on in vitro antimalarial drug susceptibility. We used the double-site enzyme-linked pLDH immunodetection (DELI) assay to estimate the in vitro antimalarial drug susceptibility of 108 fresh P. falciparum isolates from southern Laos. The geometric mean (95% confidence interval) 50% inhibitory concentration values (nmol/L) were 152.4 (123.8-187.6) for chloroquine, 679.8 (533.8-863.0) for quinine, 45.9 (37.9-55.7) for mefloquine, 5.0 (4.4-6.4) for artesunate, 6.3 (4.5-8.9) for dihydroartemisinin, and 59.1 (46.4-75.3) for lumefantrine. The proportion of isolates defined as resistant were 65%, 40%, and 8% for chloroquine, quinine, and mefloquine, respectively. Of 53 isolates genotyped for the pfcrt T76K chloroquine-resistance mutation, 48 (91%) were mutants. P. falciparum in Laos is multi-drug resistant; antimalarial immunity resulting from the use of ineffective chloroquine before 2005 probably contributes significantly to the therapeutic responses in clinical trials.

Mayxay M, Khomthilat T, Souvannasing P, Phounesavath K, Vorasane B, Keomany S, Douangdala P, Philavong K, Srour L, Newton PN. 2007. Factors associated with a measles outbreak in children admitted at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos. BMC Public Health, 7 (1), pp. 193. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: In 2002 and 2003 there were large outbreaks of measles in many provinces of Laos, including in Vientiane. We therefore conducted a study to determine risk factors associated with measles amongst children admitted at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane. METHODS: A retrospective case-control study was conducted in 50 children with clinical measles who were matched by age and sex with 50 healthy children (who had never had a febrile rash) living in the same villages as the cases. RESULTS: The proportion of children with complete immunizations was significantly lower in the group with clinical measles compared to the controls [13/50 (26%) vs 34/50 (68%), P < 0.001). The percentage of children who had received measles vaccine at 9-23 months of age was significantly lower in the group with clinical measles compared to the healthy controls [12/50 (24%) vs 24/50 (48%), P = 0.01). The family educational and socio-economic status did not differ significantly (P > 0.05) between cases and controls. CONCLUSION: These results emphasize the importance of intensification of measles immunization coverage in Laos. The strengthening of campaigns with large, widespread high second dose coverage is likely to be a key measure to prevent further measles outbreaks in Laos (192 words).

Phetsouvanh R, Phongmany S, Soukaloun D, Rasachak B, Soukhaseum V, Soukhaseum S, Frichithavong K, Khounnorath S, Pengdee B, Phiasakha K et al. 2006. Causes of community-acquired bacteremia and patterns of antimicrobial resistance in Vientiane, Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 75 (5), pp. 978-985. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is no published information on the causes of bacteremia in the Lao PDR (Laos). Between 2000 and 2004, 4512 blood culture pairs were taken from patients admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos, with suspected community-acquired bacteremia; 483 (10.7%) cultures grew a clinically significant community-acquired organism, most commonly Salmonella enterica serovar typhi (50.9%), Staphylococcus aureus (19.0%), and Escherichia coli (12.4%). S. aureus bacteremia was common among infants (69.2%), while children 1-5 years had a high frequency of typhoid (44%). Multi-drug-resistant S. Typhi was rare (6%). On multiple logistic regression analysis, typhoid was associated with younger age, longer illness, diarrhea, higher admission temperature, and lower peripheral white blood cell count than non-typhoidal bacteremia. Empirical parenteral ampicillin and gentamicin would have some activity against approximately 88% of clinically significant isolates at a cost of US $1.4/day, an important exception being B. pseudomallei. Bacteremic infants in this setting require an anti-staphylococcal antibiotic.

Hall KA, Newton PN, Green MD, De Veij M, Vandenabeele P, Pizzanelli D, Mayxay M, Dondorp A, Fernandez FM. 2006. Characterization of counterfeit artesunate antimalarial tablets from southeast Asia. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 75 (5), pp. 804-811. | Show Abstract | Read more

In southeast Asia, the widespread high prevalence of counterfeits tablets of the vital antimalarial artesunate is of great public health concern. To assess the seriousness of this problem, we quantified the amount of active ingredient present in artesunate tablets by liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. This method, in conjunction with analysis of the packaging, classified tablets as genuine, substandard, or fake and validated results of the colorimetric Fast Red TR test. Eight (35%) of 23 fake artesunate samples contained the wrong active ingredients, which were identified as different erythromycins and paracetamol. Raman spectroscopy identified calcium carbonate as an excipient in 9 (39%) of 23 fake samples. Multivariate unsupervised pattern recognition results indicated two major clusters of artesunate counterfeits, those with counterfeit foil stickers and containing calcium carbonate, erythromycin, and paracetamol, and those with counterfeit holograms and containing starch but without evidence of erythromycin or paracetamol.

Mayxay M, Thongpraseuth V, Khanthavong M, Lindegårdh N, Barends M, Keola S, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Phetsouvanh R, Stepniewska K et al. 2006. An open, randomized comparison of artesunate plus mefloquine vs. dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos). Trop Med Int Health, 11 (8), pp. 1157-1165. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To determine the efficacy and safety of oral dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP, Artekin) in the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in southern Laos. METHODS: An open, randomized clinical trial of oral artesunate-mefloquine (AM) vs. DP in 220 patients with acute uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Savannakhet Province, Laos. RESULTS: The 42-day cure rates (95% CI), as determined by survival analysis and adjusted for reinfection, were excellent and similar for the two groups [99 (94-100)% and 100 (100-100)% for AM and DP, respectively]. The median (range) fever and parasite clearance times for the AM and DP groups were also similar [20 (4-63) h and 2 (1-4) days vs. 20 (7-57) and 2 (1-4) days, logrank P = 0.4 and 0.17, respectively]. There were more patients with at least one potential side effect following treatment in the AM group when compared with the DP group [64/110 (58%) vs. 48/110 (44%), respectively, P = 0.031]. CONCLUSION: Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine did not have superior efficacy to AM for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Laos but was associated with fewer adverse effects.

Phongmany S, Rolain J-M, Phetsouvanh R, Blacksell SD, Soukkhaseum V, Rasachack B, Phiasakha K, Soukkhaseum S, Frichithavong K, Chu V et al. 2006. Rickettsial infections and fever, Vientiane, Laos. Emerg Infect Dis, 12 (2), pp. 256-262. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rickettsial diseases have not been described previously from Laos, but in a prospective study, acute rickettsial infection was identified as the cause of fever in 115 (27%) of 427 adults with negative blood cultures admitted to Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane, Laos. The organisms identified by serologic analysis were Orientia tsutsugamushi (14.8%), Rickettsia typhi (9.6%), and spotted fever group rickettsia (2.6% [8 R. helvetica, 1 R. felis, 1 R. conorii subsp. indica, and 1 Rickettsia "AT1"]). Patients with murine typhus had a lower frequency of peripheral lymphadenopathy than those with scrub typhus (3% vs. 46%, p<0.001). Rickettsioses are an underrecognized cause of undifferentiated febrile illnesses among adults in Laos. This finding has implications for the local empiric treatment of fever.

Anderson TJC, Nair S, Sudimack D, Williams JT, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Guthmann J-P, Smithuis FM, Tran TH, van den Broek IVF et al. 2005. Geographical distribution of selected and putatively neutral SNPs in Southeast Asian malaria parasites. Mol Biol Evol, 22 (12), pp. 2362-2374. | Show Abstract | Read more

Loci targeted by directional selection are expected to show elevated geographical population structure relative to neutral loci, and a flurry of recent papers have used this rationale to search for genome regions involved in adaptation. Studies of functional mutations that are known to be under selection are particularly useful for assessing the utility of this approach. Antimalarial drug treatment regimes vary considerably between countries in Southeast Asia selecting for local adaptation at parasite loci underlying resistance. We compared the population structure revealed by 10 nonsynonymous mutations (nonsynonymous single-nucleotide polymorphisms [nsSNPs]) in four loci that are known to be involved in antimalarial drug resistance, with patterns revealed by 10 synonymous mutations (synonymous single-nucleotide polymorphisms [sSNPs]) in housekeeping genes or genes of unknown function in 755 Plasmodium falciparum infections collected from 13 populations in six Southeast Asian countries. Allele frequencies at known nsSNPs underlying resistance varied markedly between locations (F(ST) = 0.18-0.66), with the highest frequencies on the Thailand-Burma border and the lowest frequencies in neighboring Lao PDR. In contrast, we found weak but significant geographic structure (F(ST) = 0-0.14) for 8 of 10 sSNPs. Importantly, all 10 nsSNPs showed significantly higher F(ST) (P < 8 x 10(-5)) than simulated neutral expectations based on observed F(ST) values in the putatively neutral sSNPs. This result was unaffected by the methods used to estimate allele frequencies or the number of populations used in the simulations. Given that dense single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) maps and rapid SNP assay methods are now available for P. falciparum, comparing genetic differentiation across the genome may provide a valuable aid to identifying parasite loci underlying local adaptation to drug treatment regimes or other selective forces. However, the high proportion of polymorphic sites that appear to be under balancing selection (or linked to selected sites) in the P. falciparum genome violates the central assumption that selected sites are rare, which complicates identification of outlier loci, and suggests that caution is needed when using this approach.

Nash D, Nair S, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Guthmann J-P, Nosten F, Anderson TJC. 2005. Selection strength and hitchhiking around two anti-malarial resistance genes. Proc Biol Sci, 272 (1568), pp. 1153-1161. | Show Abstract | Read more

Neutral mutations may hitchhike to high frequency when they are situated close to sites under positive selection, generating local reductions in genetic diversity. This process is thought to be an important determinant of levels of genomic variation in natural populations. The size of genome regions affected by genetic hitchhiking is expected to be dependent on the strength of selection, but there is little empirical data supporting this prediction. Here, we compare microsatellite variation around two drug resistance genes (chloroquine resistance transporter (pfcrt), chromosome 7, and dihydrofolate reductase (dhfr), chromosome 4) in malaria parasite populations exposed to strong (Thailand) or weak selection (Laos) by anti-malarial drugs. In each population, we examined the point mutations underlying resistance and length variation at 22 (chromosome 4) or 25 (chromosome 7) microsatellite markers across these chromosomes. All parasites from Thailand carried the K76T mutation in pfcrt conferring resistance to chloroquine (CQ) and 2-4 mutations in dhfr conferring resistance to pyrimethamine. By contrast, we found both wild-type and resistant alleles at both genes in Laos. There were dramatic differences in the extent of hitchhiking in the two countries. The size of genome regions affected was smaller in Laos than in Thailand. We observed significant reduction in variation relative to sensitive parasites for 34-64 kb (2-4 cM) in Laos on chromosome 4, compared with 98-137 kb (6-8 cM) in Thailand. Similarly, on chromosome 7, we observed reduced variation for 34-69 kb (2-4 cM) around pfcrt in Laos, but for 195-268 kb (11-16 cM) in Thailand. Reduction in genetic variation was also less extreme in Laos than in Thailand. Most loci were monomorphic in a 12 kb region surrounding both genes on resistant chromosomes from Thailand, whereas in Laos, even loci immediately proximal to selective sites showed some variation on resistant chromosomes. Finally, linkage disequilibrium (LD) decayed more rapidly around resistant pfcrt and dhfr alleles from Laos than from Thailand. These results demonstrate that different realizations of the same selective sweeps may vary considerably in size and shape, in a manner broadly consistent with selection history. From a practical perspective, genomic regions containing resistance genes may be most effectively located by genome-wide association in populations exposed to strong drug selection. However, the lower levels of LD surrounding resistance alleles in populations under weak selection may simplify identification of functional mutations.

Phongmany S, Phetsouvanh R, Sisouphone S, Darasavath C, Vongphachane P, Rattanavong O, Mayxay M, Ramsay AC, Blacksell SD, Thammavong C et al. 2005. A randomized comparison of oral chloramphenicol versus ofloxacin in the treatment of uncomplicated typhoid fever in Laos. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 99 (6), pp. 451-458. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted a randomized open trial of oral chloramphenicol (50mg/kg/day in four divided doses for 14 days) versus ofloxacin (15 mg/kg/day in two divided doses for 3 days) in 50 adults with culture-confirmed uncomplicated typhoid fever in Vientiane, Laos. Patients had been ill for a median (range) of 8 (2-30) days. All Salmonella enterica serotype typhi isolates were nalidixic acid-sensitive, four (8%) were chloramphenicol-resistant and three (6%) were multidrug-resistant. Median (range) fever clearance times were 90 (24-224) hours in the chloramphenicol group and 54 (6-93) hours in the ofloxacin group (P<0.001). One patient in the chloramphenicol group developed an ileal perforation. Three days ofloxacin was more effective than 14 days chloramphenicol for the in-patient treatment of typhoid fever, irrespective of antibiotic susceptibility, and was of similar cost.

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European Pubmed Central

Wuthiekanun V, Mayxay M, Chierakul W, Phetsouvanh R, Cheng AC, White NJ, Day NPJ, Peacock SJ. 2005. Detection of Burkholderia pseudomallei in soil within the Lao People's Democratic Republic. J Clin Microbiol, 43 (2), pp. 923-924. | Show Abstract | Read more

Clinical cases of melioidosis caused by the saprophyte Burkholderia pseudomallei were first noted in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) in 1999. In this study, 36% of 110 soil samples in northern Lao PDR were positive for B. pseudomallei, providing further evidence for the presence of melioidosis in this country.

Dondorp AM, Newton PN, Mayxay M, Van Damme W, Smithuis FM, Yeung S, Petit A, Lynam AJ, Johnson A, Hien TT et al. 2004. Fake antimalarials in Southeast Asia are a major impediment to malaria control: multinational cross-sectional survey on the prevalence of fake antimalarials. Trop Med Int Health, 9 (12), pp. 1241-1246. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To assess the prevalence of counterfeit antimalarial drugs in Southeast (SE) Asia. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. SETTING: Pharmacies and shops selling antimalarial drugs in Myanmar (Burma), Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Proportion of artemisinin derivatives or mefloquine containing drugs of substandard quality. RESULTS: Of the 188 tablet packs purchased which were labelled as 'artesunate' 53% did not contain any artesunate. All counterfeit artesunate tablets were labelled as manufactured by 'Guilin Pharma', and refinements of the fake blisterpacks made them often hard to distinguish from their genuine counterparts. No other artemisinin derivatives were found to be counterfeited. Of the 44 mefloquine samples, 9% contained <10% of the expected amount of active ingredient. CONCLUSIONS: An alarmingly high proportion of antimalarial drugs bought in pharmacies and shops in mainland SE Asia are counterfeit, and the problem has increased significantly compared with our previous survey in 1999-2000. This is a serious threat to public health in the region.

Stepniewska K, Taylor WRJ, Mayxay M, Price R, Smithuis F, Guthmann J-P, Barnes K, Myint HY, Adjuik M, Olliaro P et al. 2004. In vivo assessment of drug efficacy against Plasmodium falciparum malaria: duration of follow-up. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 48 (11), pp. 4271-4280. | Show Abstract | Read more

To determine the optimum duration of follow-up for the assessment of drug efficacy against Plasmodium falciparum malaria, 96 trial arms from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with follow-up of 28 days or longer that were conducted between 1990 and 2003 were analyzed. These trials enrolled 13,772 patients, and participating patients comprised 23% of all patients enrolled in RCTs over the past 40 years; 61 (64%) trial arms were conducted in areas where the rate of malaria transmission was low, and 58 (50%) trial arms were supported by parasite genotyping to distinguish true recrudescences from reinfections. The median overall failure rate reported was 10% (range, 0 to 47%). The widely used day 14 assessment had a sensitivity of between 0 and 37% in identifying treatment failures and had no predictive value. Assessment at day 28 had a sensitivity of 66% overall (28 to 100% in individual trials) but could be used to predict the true failure rate if either parasite genotyping was performed (r(2) = 0.94) or if the entomological inoculation rate was known. In the assessment of drug efficacy against falciparum malaria, 28 days should be the minimum period of follow-up.

Mayxay M, Khanthavong M, Lindegårdh N, Keola S, Barends M, Pongvongsa T, Yapom R, Annerberg A, Phompida S, Phetsouvanh R et al. 2004. Randomized comparison of chloroquine plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine versus artesunate plus mefloquine versus artemether-lumefantrine in the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Clin Infect Dis, 39 (8), pp. 1139-1147. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Recent clinical trials in the Lao People's Democratic Republic have demonstrated that chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, which are national malaria treatment policy, are no longer effective in the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria. METHODS: A randomized comparison of 3 oral antimalarial combinations--chloroquine plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine versus artesunate plus mefloquine versus artemether-lumefantrine--with 42-day follow-up period, was conducted among 330 patients with acute uncomplicated falciparum malaria in southern Laos. RESULTS: The 42-day cure rates, as determined by intention-to-treat analysis and adjusted for reinfection, were 100%, 97%, and 93% for the groups receiving artesunate plus mefloquine, artemether-lumefantrine, and chloroquine plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, respectively. Of 8 patients receiving chloroquine plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine who experienced treatment failure, 6 had early treatment failure. The mean parasite clearance time was significantly longer in patients treated with chloroquine plus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (2.9 days; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.8-3.0 days) than in those treated with artesunate plus mefloquine (2.07 days; 95% CI, 2.0-2.1 days; P<.001) and artemether-lumefantrine (2.08 days; 95% CI, 2.0-2.1 days; P<.001). Cure rates with artemether-lumefantrine were high despite low mean daily dietary fat intake (13.8 g; 95% CI, 12.5-15.1 g) and day 7 plasma lumefantrine concentrations (0.47 mu g/mL; 95% CI, 0.38-0.56 mu g/mL). CONCLUSION: Oral artesunate plus mefloquine and artemether-lumefantrine are highly effective for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Laos.

Mayxay M, Pukrittayakamee S, Newton PN, White NJ. 2004. Mixed-species malaria infections in humans. Trends Parasitol, 20 (5), pp. 233-240. | Show Abstract | Read more

Mixed-species malaria infections are often not recognized or underestimated. In Asia, surveys usually report that <2% of infections are mixed, whereas therapeutic studies in vivax or falciparum malaria have demonstrated a high prevalence (up to 30%) of infection with the other malaria species during convalescence, suggesting covert co-infection. In epidemiological studies, a high prevalence of cryptic mixed-malaria species infection has been detected by sensitive PCR techniques. Concurrently infecting malaria species are mutually suppressive with Plasmodium falciparum tending to dominate Plasmodium vivax, but P. vivax attenuating the severity of P. falciparum. There is evidence for some cross-species immunity. These interactions have important clinical and public health implications.

Mayxay M, Newton PN, Yeung S, Pongvongsa T, Phompida S, Phetsouvanh R, White NJ. 2004. Short communication: An assessment of the use of malaria rapid tests by village health volunteers in rural Laos. Trop Med Int Health, 9 (3), pp. 325-329. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rapid malaria diagnosis, a key component of malaria control strategies, is hampered by the expense and training requirements of reliable microscopy. Rapid malaria antigen tests may improve the diagnosis of malaria in the rural tropics. After 1 h training 64 village health volunteers (VHVs) from rural Laos, with no previous laboratory experience, performed two malaria rapid diagnostic tests (ParacheckPf and OptiMAL) accurately. The reliability of six VHVs was assessed longitudinally, over 10 months with different frequencies of retraining. Compared with microscopy, error rates in dipstick interpretation were low (<2%) for both tests and were not associated with retraining frequency (P>0.2). Previously untrained Lao VHVs performed malaria rapid tests reliably with high sensitivity and specificity after minimal training.

Mayxay M, Newton PN, Khanthavong M, Tiengkham P, Phetsouvanh R, Phompida S, Brockman A, White NJ. 2003. Chloroquine versus sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for treatment of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Savannakhet Province, Lao People's Democratic Republic: an assessment of national antimalarial drug recommendations. Clin Infect Dis, 37 (8), pp. 1021-1028. | Show Abstract | Read more

The in vivo efficacies of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) nationally recommended antimalarial agents--chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine-were assessed in a randomized, comparative trial that involved 100 patients with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria who were followed for 42 days after starting treatment. Despite a shorter mean time to fever clearance associated with administration of chloroquine (mean time to clearance, 35.6 h; 95% confidence interval [CI], 26.3-45.0 h), compared with that associated with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (61.1 h; 95% CI, 50.9-71.3 h; P<.001), treatment failures were twice as frequent among patients receiving chloroquine therapy than among those receiving sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine therapy (36% vs. 18%; P=.02). Of 23 treatment failures, 10 (43%) were high grade. Treatment failure rates among children (age range, 5-15 years) were 4.9 times higher (95% CI, 2-12) than those among adults (P<.0001). Gametocytemia after antimalarial treatment was associated with receipt of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine therapy and with treatment failure (P=.009). The efficacy of both chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine in Laos is unsatisfactory.

Nair S, Williams JT, Brockman A, Paiphun L, Mayxay M, Newton PN, Guthmann J-P, Smithuis FM, Hien TT, White NJ et al. 2003. A selective sweep driven by pyrimethamine treatment in southeast asian malaria parasites. Mol Biol Evol, 20 (9), pp. 1526-1536. | Show Abstract | Read more

Malaria parasites (Plasmodium falciparum) provide an excellent system in which to study the genomic effects of strong selection in a recombining eukaryote because the rapid spread of resistance to multiple drugs during the last the past 50 years has been well documented, the full genome sequence and a microsatellite map are now available, and haplotype data can be easily generated. We examined microsatellite variation around the dihydrofolate reductase (dhfr) gene on chromosome 4 of P. falciparum. Point mutations in dhfr are known to be responsible for resistance to the antimalarial drug pyrimethamine, and resistance to this drug has spread rapidly in Southeast (SE) Asia after its introduction in 1970s. We genotyped 33 microsatellite markers distributed across chromosome 4 in 61 parasites from a location on the Thailand/Myanmar border. We observed minimal microsatellite length variation in a 12-kb (0.7-cM) region flanking the dhfr gene and diminished variation for approximately 100 kb (6 cM), indicative of a single origin of resistant alleles. Furthermore, we found the same or similar microsatellite haplotypes flanked resistant dhfr alleles sampled from 11 parasite populations in five SE Asian countries indicating recent invasion of a single lineage of resistant dhfr alleles in locations 2000 km apart. Three features of these data are of especially interest. (1). Pyrimethamine resistance is generally assumed to have evolved multiple times because the genetic basis is simple and resistance can be selected easily in the laboratory. Yet our data clearly indicate a single origin of resistant dhfr alleles sampled over a large region of SE Asia. (2). The wide valley ( approximately 6 cM) of reduced variation around dhfr provides "proof-of-principle" that genome-wide association may be an effective way to locate genes under strong recent selection. (3). The width of the selective valley is consistent with predictions based on independent measures of recombination, mutation, and selection intensity, suggesting that we have reasonable estimates of these parameters. We conclude that scanning the malaria parasite genome for evidence of recent selection may prove an extremely effective way to locate genes underlying recently evolved traits such as drug resistance, as well as providing an opportunity to study the dynamics of selective events that have occurred recently or are currently in progress.

Newton PN, Dondorp A, Green M, Mayxay M, White NJ. 2003. Counterfeit artesunate antimalarials in southeast Asia. Lancet, 362 (9378), pp. 169. | Read more

Mayxay M, Phetsouvanh R, Phompida S, Newton PN, Khanthavong M, Vannachone B, Brockmans A, White NJ. 2003. A randomized comparison of oral chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Laos. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 97 (3), pp. 343-344. | Show Abstract | Read more

Between June and October 2000 we conducted the first randomized trial in Laos comparing chloroquine (CQ) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) in the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria (n = 29, 42-d follow-up, age > 5 years). The proportion of patients with treatment failure was high (CQ = 78%, RIII 46%; SP = 36%, RIII 15%). The treatment policy for uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in Laos needs to be reviewed urgently.

Mayxay M, Chotivanich K, Pukrittayakamee S, Newton P, Looareesuwan S, White NJ. 2001. Contribution of humoral immunity to the therapeutic response in falciparum malaria. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 65 (6), pp. 918-923. | Show Abstract | Read more

The contribution of humoral immunity to the therapeutic response in acute falciparum malaria was assessed in a case-control study. Forty adult Thai patients with acute falciparum malaria who had subsequent recrudescent infections and 40 patients matched for age, therapeutic regimen, and disease severity who were cured by Day 28 were studied. All cured patients had positive immunoglobulin (Ig) G to ring-infected erythrocyte surface antigen (RESA) in their admission plasma, compared with only 60% of patients who failed to respond to treatment (P < 0.001). The proportion of IgM-positive cases at admission was also higher in the successfully treated group than in the group with failure (70% versus 30%) (P < 0.001). The geometric mean (95% confidence interval) reciprocal IgG titer at admission was significantly higher in cured patients (187.0 [83.5-418.3]) compared with those who experienced treatment failure (11.6 [5.1-26.5]) (P < 0.001). The patients with uncomplicated malaria who were both IgG and IgM positive at admission had significantly shorter fever clearance times and lower admission parasitemia levels compared with those who were negative (P = 0.01 and P = 0.02, respectively). The median (range) in vitro parasite multiplication rate was significantly lower in cultures containing positive anti-RESA antibody plasma compared with those containing normal plasma (0.7 [0.1-3.5] versus 2.6 [0.1-12.1]; P < 0.001). These results suggest that antimalarial antibodies may play an important supportive role in the therapeutic response to antimalarial drugs during acute falciparum malaria.

Mayxay M, Pukritrayakamee S, Chotivanich K, Imwong M, Looareesuwan S, White NJ. 2001. Identification of cryptic coinfection with Plasmodium falciparum in patients presenting with vivax malaria. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 65 (5), pp. 588-592. | Show Abstract | Read more

In Thailand, approximately 8% of patients treated for vivax malaria are found subsequently to have coinfection with Plasmodium falciparum. A P. falciparum histidine rich protein 2 (PfHRP-2) dipstick test was evaluated as a predictor of mixed infections with subpatent P. falciparum in a prospective study of 238 patients admitted to the hospital with acute vivax malaria. Of these, 23 (10%) had subsequent development of falciparum malaria without reexposure. Patients with cryptic P. falciparum infection had a significantly lower mean (standard deviation) hematocrit than those with P. vivax alone: 29.6 (7.6%) versus 37.2 (6.4%) (P < 0.0001). Using microscopic appearance of P. falciparum after the start of treatment as the reference standard, the PfHRP-2 test was 74% sensitive and 99% specific in predicting mixed infections with subpatent P. falciparum parasitemia at presentation. The PfHRP-2 dipstick test may be a useful adjunct to microscopy in areas where mixed infections are common.

Newton P, Proux S, Green M, Smithuis F, Rozendaal J, Prakongpan S, Chotivanich K, Mayxay M, Looareesuwan S, Farrar J et al. 2001. Fake artesunate in southeast Asia. Lancet, 357 (9272), pp. 1948-1950. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artesunate is a key antimalarial drug in the treatment of multidrug-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria in southeast Asia. We investigated the distribution of counterfeit artesunate tablets by use of the validated, simple, and inexpensive Fast Red TR dye technique. We also aimed to identify distinguishing characteristics of the fake drugs. Of 104 shop-bought "artesunate" samples from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam, 38% did not contain artesunate. Characteristics such as cost and physical appearance of the tablets and packaging reliably predicted authenticity. The illicit trade in counterfeit antimalarials is a great threat to the lives of patients with malaria. The dye test will assist national malaria control authorities in urgently needed campaigns to stop this murderous trade.

Mayxay M, Pukrittayakamee S, Chotivanich K, Looareesuwan S, White NJ. 2001. Persistence of Plasmodium falciparum HRP-2 in successfully treated acute falciparum malaria. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 95 (2), pp. 179-182. | Show Abstract | Read more

The potential for Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein-2 (PfHRP-2) dipstick tests to predict antimalarial treatment failure was investigated in a prospective study in Thailand of 38 patients admitted with severe malaria and 54 hospitalized with uncomplicated P. falciparum infections. Of these, 40 had subsequent recrudescence of their infections. Overall, 89% of patients with severe malaria and 61% of patients with uncomplicated malaria had positive PfHRP-2 dipstick tests for > 2 weeks following the start of treatment. Persistence was correlated positively with admission parasite counts, PfHRP-2 intensity scores and disease severity. PfHRP-2 tests which remained positive for > 2 weeks and PfHRP-2 reactive intensity scores on admission, at day 7 and day 14 did not predict treatment failure independent of admission parasitaemia. Freezing and thawing the blood samples did not significantly affect PfHRP-2 results tested by the dipstick technique. The PfHRP-2 dipstick test provides a useful indicator of recent severe malaria, but does not predict the therapeutic response.

Phetsouvanh R, Phongmany S, Newton P, Mayxay M, Ramsay A, Wuthiekanun V, White NJ. 2001. Melioidosis and Pandora's box in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Clin Infect Dis, 32 (4), pp. 653-654. | Show Abstract | Read more

Melioidosis has not been recognized previously in Laos, but within months of starting a prospective study of community acquired septicemia in Vientiane, 2 patients with melioidosis were identified. One was a previously healthy, 44-year-old female rice farmer who presented with supraclavicular lymphadenitis and the other was a 74-year-old man with diabetes and renal calculi who was receiving corticosteroids and had septicemia and septic arthritis.

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