The BBC has reported that a new drug to treat malaria has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US. The drug, called tafenoquine, is specifically for the recurring form of malaria that is caused by the parasite plasmodium vivax and affects 8.5 million people each year. The next step is for regulators worldwide to look at the drug and see if they can recommend it for their populations.
This type of malaria can be challenging to get rid of as it is able to lie dormant in the liver for years. However, the new drug can flush the parasite from out of the liver and prevent it from being contracted again. Tafenoquine can be taken in tandem with another drug to treat immediate infection.
Although the FDA has approved the use of the drug in the US, it has highlighted that tafenoquine has side effects. These include that it can cause severe anaemia and should therefore not be taken by people with an enzyme problem called G6PD deficiency and that, at higher doses, it could be problematic for people with psychiatric diseases.
“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,” Professor Ric Price, Oxford University, UK, told the BBC.