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Giving paracetamol (acetaminophen) to patients ill with severe malaria made them less likely to develop potentially fatal kidney failure, say researchers in a recent study in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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MORU's Dr Katherine Plewes and Dr Stije Leopold examine a malaria patient in Chittagong, Bangladesh (Nov 2017). Photo by Alexander Kumar © MORU 2018.

The study reported for the first time that giving regular doses of paracetamol protects the kidney in adult patients with severe falciparum malaria. Each year severe malaria causes close to half a million deaths globally. Acute kidney injury (AKI) complicating severe malaria is an important cause for death.  AKI occurs in 40 % of adults and at least 10 % of children with severe malaria, killing an estimated 40 % of these adults and 12-24 % of the children.

“This is an important finding, because acute kidney injury is a very common, often fatal complication in adult patients with severe malaria,” said Oxford Prof Arjen Dondorp, Head of Malaria Research at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok. “Surprisingly simple and cheap paracetamol can protect the kidney in severe malaria and thus has the potential to reduce deaths from malaria.”

Find out more (Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine)