Which medications are used to treat malaria during pregnancy?

Updated: Jun 03, 2020
  • Author: Thomas E Herchline, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Medications that can be used for the treatment of malaria in pregnancy include chloroquine, quinine, atovaquone-proguanil, clindamycin, mefloquine (avoid in first trimester), sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (avoid in first trimester) and the artemisinins (see below). Briand et al compared the efficacy and safety of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to mefloquine for intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy. In their study, 1601 women of all gravidities received either sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (1500 mg of sulfadoxine and 75 mg of pyrimethamine) or mefloquine (15 mg/kg) in a single dose twice during pregnancy. There was a small advantage for mefloquine in terms of efficacy, although the incidence of side effects was higher with mefloquine than with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. [39, 40]

In addition to mefloquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, other medications have been used in the treatment of the pregnant patient with malaria. In a recent study in African patients, artemether-lumefantrine was as efficacious and as well tolerated as oral quinine in treating uncomplicated falciparum malaria during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. [1]

Artesunate and other antimalarials also appear to be effective and safe in the first trimester of pregnancy, when development of malaria carries a high risk of miscarriage. [2]

Use of tafenoquine to prevent relapse of P vivax malaria during pregnancy is not recommended. Use during pregnancy may cause hemolytic anemia in a G6PD-deficient fetus. In addition, tafenoquine use during lactation should be avoided if the infant is G6PD deficient or of unknown G6PD status. [35]

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