Fascioliasis is an emerging zoonotic disease of considerable veterinary and public health importance. Triclabendazole is the only available drug for treatment. Laboratory studies have documented promising fasciocidal properties of the artemisinins (e.g., artemether).
We carried out two exploratory phase-2 trials to assess the efficacy and safety of oral artemether administered at (i) 6×80 mg over 3 consecutive days, and (ii) 3×200 mg within 24 h in 36 Fasciola-infected individuals in Egypt. Efficacy was determined by cure rate (CR) and egg reduction rate (ERR) based on multiple Kato-Katz thick smears before and after drug administration. Patients who remained Fasciola-positive following artemether dosing were treated with single 10 mg/kg oral triclabendazole. In case of treatment failure, triclabendazole was re-administered at 20 mg/kg in two divided doses.
CRs achieved with 6×80 mg and 3×200 mg artemether were 35% and 6%, respectively. The corresponding ERRs were 63% and nil, respectively. Artemether was well tolerated. A high efficacy was observed with triclabendazole administered at 10 mg/kg (16 patients; CR: 67%, ERR: 94%) and 20 mg/kg (4 patients; CR: 75%, ERR: 96%).
Artemether, administered at malaria treatment regimens, shows no or only little effect against fascioliasis, and hence does not represent an alternative to triclabendazole. The role of artemether and other artemisinin derivatives as partner drug in combination chemotherapy remains to be elucidated.