My husband will be traveling to Ghana soon. We have Mefloquine and Primaquine. Which one do you think is best for prophylaxis in Ghana? He also has Fansidar, but we understand it’s best not to use this for prophylaxis. Thank you for your help!
There are positives and negatives associated with both of these medications. Mefloquine is recommended for travelers in Ghana (whereas the Centers for Disease Control does not explicitly recommend primaquine for this area, since primaquine is particularly effective against Plasmodium vivax malaria, which is almost completely absent from West Africa), and only has to be taken once a week (primaquine must be taken daily).
A disadvantage with mefloquine is that you must start taking it 2 weeks before your trip, whereas primaquine can be started as little as 1-2 days before travel; mefloquine is also not recommended for people with a history of psychiatric or mental problems, as it can cause severe side effects. Even healthy individuals often report disturbing dreams or increased agression/anxiety while taking mefloquine. However, one major disadvantage to primaquine is that you must be tested for G6DP deficiency prior to taking it – your husband may have already done this, prior to being prescribed the drug. People with G6DP deficiency should not take primaquine.
Overall, the decision comes down to personal preference, though from a disease perspective, mefloquine would probably be the better choice for travel to Ghana, given the higher prevalence of P. falciparum malaria in this region, as opposed to P. vivax. Other options to consider would be atovaquone-proguanil (Malarone – expensive, taken daily, but very effective and very well tolerated by most people, with very low side effects) or doxycycline (very cheap, taken daily, is an antibiotic so can prevent some other infections but often results in sun sensitivity, which can be a problem in the tropics). Both of these can be started 1-2 days before arriving in the malarial area.
After you come back, I would be very grateful if you could take our malaria medication side effects survey, as we are very interested in hearing from our readers what their experiences with malaria prophylaxis and treatment have been.