How is malaria cured?
Malaria can be cured with a number of different medications, depending on then type of malaria and how far the disease has been progressed.
For standard, non-complicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the World Health Organisation recommends use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), such as Coartem. This is due to increasing levels of resistance to chloroquine in many parts of the world. Indeed, even though chloroquine is still used in many places as first-line treatment against P. vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale and P. knowlesi uncomplicated malaria, there is some evidence that resistance to this treatment is also emerging, for example in P. vivax in parts of south-east Asia.
In cases where malaria infection has progressed to a stage where oral administration of medication is not possible, or where cerebral symptoms are suspected, the usual treatment option is intravenous quinine.
In addition, P. vivax and P. ovale malaria parasites are able to produce forms (called hypnozoites) which can become dormant in liver hepatocyte cells after the blood stages of the infection have been cleared. These dormant forms can become reactivated weeks or even months or years after the initial infection, which is called a “relapse” of the infection. One drug, called primaquine, is able to kill these liver stages, and so patients with either of these types of malaria should also discuss the possibility of taking primaquine.
Apart from these first-line treatments, there are other medications which are used against malaria, both prophylactically as well as for treatment. These include orally-administered quinine, pyrimethamine, mefloquine, proguanil, atovaquone and sulfonamides.
For more information, see the WHO recommendations for malaria treatment.