BANGKOK – A new research study has shown that a seven-day treatment with a high dose of an anti-malaria drug can be tolerated by patients and is as effective as the standard 14-day treatment to cure the strain known as P. vivax malaria.
The study, published in the prestigious science journal The Lancet, was based on clinical trials conducted in Africa and Asia with high doses of primaquine – the only drug known to kill Plasmodium vivax, a parasite responsible for one of the two most common types of malaria.
Though P. vivax is less virulent than Plasmodium falciparum – the parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria – it can still cause repeated relapses due to its ability to become dormant in the liver if treatment to eliminate it is not completed.
For the past 60 years, the treatment has involved administering antimalarial medication followed by 14 days of taking primaquine, as recommended by the World Health Organization.
“But patients often fail to complete the treatment once they feel better,” Bob Taylor of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok, Thailand, said in a statement.
Researchers noted that premature discontinuation of the treatment leads to multiple relapses that seriously affect the health, especially of children, and that the new treatment reduced over time could help prevent this.
“A short-course primaquine regimen is much easier to administer and patients are more likely to complete the treatment,” said Professor Ric Price of Oxford University, the study’s lead researcher.
The study also involved the collaboration of the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, Australia, and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“If used widely, this new regimen could help reduce and accelerate the elimination of P. vivax malaria from the (Asia-Pacific) region,” Price added.
Primaquine is not used to treat P. falciparum malaria, a type that is instead treated with combinations of artemisinin, to which the parasite has shown increasing signs of resistance in recent years.