Malaria journal

Efficacy of intravenous methylene blue, intravenous artesunate, and their combination in preclinical models of malaria.

PMID 25336091


Intravenous artesunate (IV AS) is the present treatment of choice for severe malaria, but development of artemisinin resistance indicates that a further agent will be needed. Methylene blue (MB) is an approved human agent for IV and oral use, and is already being investigated for oral treatment of uncomplicated malaria. To initiate investigation of IV MB for severe malaria, the efficacy of IV MB was compared to IV AS and to their combination in rat and non-human primate malaria models. IV MB was compared to IV AS and to their combination in the Plasmodium berghei-infected rat, a self-curing model; the Plasmodium falciparum-infected Aotus monkey, a fatal model; and the Plasmodium cynomolgi-infected rhesus monkey, a fatal model. Key endpoints were clearance of all parasites from the blood and cure (clearance without recrudescence). In rats, the minimal dose of individual drugs and their combination that cleared parasites from all animals was 20 mg IV MB/kg/day, 60 mg IV AS/kg/day and 10 mg IV MB/kg/day plus 30 mg IV AS/kg/day. In Aotus, 8 mg IV MB/kg/day and 8 mg IV AS/kg/day each cured two of three monkeys by one day after therapy, and the third monkey in each group was cured two days later. The combination of both drugs did not result in superior efficacy. In rhesus, 8 mg IV MB/kg/day and 8 mg IV AS/kg/day performed comparably: parasite clearance occurred by day 3 of therapy, although only one of four animals in each dose group cured. Eight mg/kg/day of both drugs in combination was 100% successful: all four of four animals cured. In each of the three animal models, the efficacy of IV MB was approximately equal to that of standard of care IV AS. In the rat and rhesus models, the combination was more effective than either single agent. This preclinical data suggests that IV MB, alone or in combination with IV AS, is effective against Plasmodium spp. and can be evaluated in severe malaria models.

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