If treatment is delayed, malaria can be a severe, potentially fatal disease. Examples of medications used to treat the disease include chloroquine, mefloquine, doxycycline, and quinine. In some cases, treatment may also involve primaquine, a medication that is used to help prevent relapses of malaria.
The key to malaria treatment is starting early. With early treatment, malaria can be cured and the serious effects of malaria can be prevented. If treatment is delayed, it can be a severe, potentially fatal disease (especially when caused by Plasmodium falciparum).
The specific malaria treatment recommended will depend on:
- The type (species) of the infecting parasite
- The area where the infection was acquired
- The severity of malaria symptoms
- The patient's age
- Any other illnesses or conditions
- Drug allergies
- Other medications taken by the patient.
Treating malaria involves malaria medication. The specific medicine used to treat the disease will depend on the factors listed above.
In areas where malaria is common, for uncomplicated malaria cases, treatment does not require a stay in the hospital; however, serious cases of malaria usually do need to be treated in the hospital. In areas where malaria is not common, patients should stay in the hospital to receive their treatment.
There are a number of different types of malaria medicine that the healthcare provider can recommend. Most of the time, these medications can be taken by mouth. Patients with severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria, or who cannot take medications by mouth, can be given the treatment through an intravenous line (IV). In some countries (but not the United States), some antimalarial drugs are found in suppository form.
Specific medications used for treating malaria include:
- Mefloquine (Lariam®)
- Atovaquone-proguanil (Malarone®)
- Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (Fansidar®)
- Artemisin derivatives (not licensed for use in the United States, but often found overseas).
In addition, the medication primaquine can be used to treat the forms of malaria parasites that may lay dormant in the liver; it can help prevent malaria relapses such parasites may cause. Pregnant women should not take primaquine. Also, people who are deficient in G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) should not take the drug. Patients should not take primaquine until a screening test has excluded G6PD deficiency.