Iron chelation with desferrioxamine B in adults with asymptomatic Plasmodiumfalciparum parasitemia

Victor R. Gordeuk, Philip E. Thuma, Gary M. Brittenham, Stenford Zulu, Gracious Simwanza, Abraham Mhangu, G. Flesch, Dean Parry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


To determine if iron chelation therapy has activity against human malaria, we administered desferrioxamine B in amounts of 100 mg/kg per day by continuous 72-hour subcutaneous infusions to 28 volunteers with asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infection in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Peripheral blood concentrations of P falciparum ring forms were determined at 12-hour intervals in all subjects and serum concentrations of desferrioxamine B + ferrioxamine (the iron complex of desferrioxamine B) were measured in 26 subjects. Geometric mean concentrations of asexual intraerythrocytic parasites decreased with both chelator and placebo treatment, but the decrement with desferrioxamine B was significantly greater than that with placebo (P < .006) during both the initial and crossover periods. Compared with placebo, desferrioxamine B treatment was associated with an almost 10-fold enhancement of the rate of parasite clearance during both phases of the trial (P < .007). Mean ± SEM steady state concentrations of desferrioxamine B + ferrioxamine were 6.90 ± 0.60 μm/L at 36 hours and 7.72 ± 0.68 μmol/L at 72 hours; in vitro, the ID50 has been reported to be approximately 4 to 20 μmol/ L. No drug toxicity was detected. Parasitemia recurred in 19 of 24 participants followed-up over 1 to 6 months. We conclude that desferrioxamine B enhances the clearance of P falciparum parasitemia and that iron chelation may provide a new strategy to be developed for the treatment of malaria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-312
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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