New drug for malaria could save 8.5 million lives

New drug for malaria could save 8.5 million lives

A new drug for the treatment of malaria has been approved by the US authorities.

The drug is specifically targeted at the recurrent form of malaria triggered by the parasite plasmodium vivax, infecting 8.5 million people each year.

Tafimquin has been described as "an extraordinary achievement" by scientists.

Regulators worldwide will study the drug to see if it can be rolled out around the world.

Recurrent malaria is the most common type of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

Children can be particularly vulnerable to the disease, getting several bouts of the disease from one bite causing them to miss school and getting weaker each time.

Infected people can be the host of the disease unwittingly, because when the parasite reawakens in their bodies, the mosquito can carry that parasite to others. This makes it difficult to eliminate the disease around the world.

Now, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved tafenoquine, a drug that flushes parasites from the liver and prevents people from falling ill again.

There is already a drug that can be used to remove malaria hidden in the liver, called primaquine. Unlike a single dose of tafenoquine, primaquine usually takes 14 days to finish the course of drugs.

The FDA states that the drug is effective and has approved its use in the United States. However, it is important to note the drug’s side effects.

For example, a person with an enzyme problem, known as G6PD deficiency, should not take this drug because it can result in severe anaemia.

Regulators recommend testing for the deficiency before administering drugs, which could be a problem in poor areas where malaria is common.

Despite these warnings, it is hope that the drug as well as mosquito nets and other preventive measures will help decrease the number of malaria cases in the world.

Professor Ric Price, of Oxford University, commented:

“The ability to get rid of the parasite in the liver with a single dose of tafenoquine is a phenomenal achievement and in my mind it represents one of the most significant advances in malaria treatment in the last 60 years.”

At the same time, Dr. Hal Barron, President of R&D at GSK, the company that produces the drug, said it was an important milestone:

“Together with our partner, Medicines for Malaria Venture, we believe Krintafel will be an important medicine for patients with malaria and contribute to the ongoing effort to eradicate this disease.”


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Image credit: World Health Organisation

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