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Malaria

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Medications

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Medicine choices

There are several medicines for preventing and treating malaria.

Medicines to prevent malaria

A doctor or local health department can consult the CDC for specific treatment guidelines for your travel destination. Standard medicines for preventing malaria include:

  • Chloroquine. You can take chloroquine to prevent P. falciparum and P. vivax infections in areas where medicine resistance to chloroquine has not been confirmed.
  • Doxycycline. You can take doxycycline if you cannot take mefloquine. Women who are pregnant and children younger than age 9 should not take this medicine.
  • Malarone. Malarone is a combination of two antimalarial medicines (atovaquone and proguanil). Malarone is taken to prevent malaria caused by P. falciparum.
  • Mefloquine. You can take mefloquine to prevent malaria infections unless the malaria parasite in the area you're visiting is resistant to mefloquine. Do not take mefloquine if you have a history of active or recent depression or other mental illness, seizures, or some types of heart-rhythm problems.
  • Primaquine. You take primaquine to prevent relapses of P. vivax and P. ovale malaria. You should be tested for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency before taking primaquine.

Medicines to treat infections

  • Chloroquine is the most effective medicine for treating a malaria infection caused by P. ovale or P. malariae parasites. To prevent relapses of infections caused by these two parasites, continue taking chloroquine after you leave the area where these parasites are present. Chloroquine is also used to treat P. falciparum and P. vivax infections in areas where resistance to chloroquine has not been confirmed.
  • Coartem is a combination of the two medicines artemether and lumefantrine. It is used to treat malaria caused by P. falciparum.

Medicines to treat chloroquine-resistant infections

When a malaria infection is caused by resistant strains of P. falciparum or P. vivax, treatment may be more difficult. When treatment with chloroquine does not work, you must take other medicines. These medicines may include:

  • Coartem, which is a combination of the two medicines artemether and lumefantrine. It is used to treat malaria caused by chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum.
  • Doxycycline, for infections caused by P. falciparum and P. vivax in Thailand and Kenya.
  • Malarone, which is a combination of two antimalarial medicines (atovaquone and proguanil). Malarone is taken to treat malaria caused by chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum.
  • Quinine plus an antibiotic such as clindamycin, doxycycline, or tetracycline for most P. falciparum infections. It should not be used in Southeast Asia, where quinine effectiveness is declining. It is only somewhat effective in Thailand.

You can get antimalarials intravenously (IV) if you are unable to take pills. IV delivery is also used for severe malaria. In the United States, quinidine is the medicine typically used in these situations.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 23, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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