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Malaria Treatment (United States)

Malaria can be a severe, potentially fatal disease (especially when caused by Plasmodium falciparum) and treatment should be initiated as soon as possible.

Patients who have severe P. falciparum malaria or who cannot take oral medications should be given the treatment by continuous intravenous infusion.

Most drugs used in treatment are active against the parasite forms in the blood (the form that causes disease) and include:

  • chloroquine
  • atovaquone-proguanil (Malarone®)
  • artemether-lumefantrine (Coartem®)
  • mefloquine (Lariam®)
  • quinine
  • quinidine
  • doxycycline (used in combination with quinine)
  • clindamycin (used in combination with quinine)
  • artesunate (not licensed for use in the United States, but available through the CDC malaria hotline)

In addition, primaquine is active against the dormant parasite liver forms (hypnozoites) and prevents relapses. Primaquine should not be taken by pregnant women or by people who are deficient in G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase). Patients should not take primaquine until a screening test has excluded G6PD deficiency.

How to treat a patient with malaria depends on:

  • The type (species) of the infecting parasite
  • The area where the infection was acquired and its drug-resistance status
  • The clinical status of the patient
  • Any accompanying illness or condition
  • Pregnancy
  • Drug allergies, or other medications taken by the patient

Report a serious drug side effect

If you have had a serious side effect while taking a drug, you or your health care provider can report that side effect to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). MedWatch is the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. You are encouraged to take the reporting form to your health care provider.

Alternatively, health care providers can report to the FDA.

The advantage to having your health care provider file the report is that he/she can provide clinical information based on your medical record that can help the FDA evaluate the report.

However, for a variety of reasons, you may not wish to have the form completed by your provider, or the provider may not wish to complete the form. Your health care provider is not required to report to the FDA. In this case, you may complete the online reporting form at yourself via the Internet.

Related Links

The CDC malaria diagnosis and treatment guidelines have also been published in an article in JAMA May 23, 2007 and can be accessed for free online: view JAMA article.