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Chapter: Basic & Clinical Pharmacology : Antiprotozoal Drugs

Antibiotics - Malaria

A number of antibiotics in addition to the folate antagonists and sulfonamides are modestly active antimalarials.


A number of antibiotics in addition to the folate antagonists and sulfonamides are modestly active antimalarials. The antibiotics that are bacterial protein synthesis inhibitors appear to act against malaria parasites by inhibiting protein synthesis in a plasmodial prokaryote-like organelle, the apicoplast. None of the antibiotics should be used as single agents in the treatment of malaria because their action is much slower than that of standard antimalarials.

Tetracycline and doxycycline  are active against erythrocytic schizonts of all human malaria parasites. They are not active against liver stages. Doxycycline is used in the treat-ment of falciparum malaria in conjunction with quinine, allowing a shorter and better-tolerated course of that drug. Doxycycline is also used to complete treatment courses after initial treatment of severe malaria with intravenous quinine, quinidine, or artesunate. In all of these cases a 1-week treatment course of doxycycline is carried out. Doxycycline has also become a standard chemopro-phylactic drug, especially for use in areas of Southeast Asia with high rates of resistance to other antimalarials, including mefloquine. Doxycycline adverse effects include gastrointestinal symptoms, candidal vaginitis, and photosensitivity. Its safety in long-term chemoprophylaxis has not been extensively evaluated.

Clindamycin  is slowly active against erythro-cytic schizonts and can be used after treatment courses of quinine, quinidine, or artesunate in those for whom doxycycline is not recommended, such as children and pregnant women. Azithromycin  also has antimalarial activity and is now under study as an alternative chemoprophylactic drug. Antimalarial activity of fluoroquinolones has been demonstrated, but efficacy for the therapy or chemoprophylaxis of malaria has been suboptimal.

Antibiotics also are active against other protozoans. Tetracycline and erythromycin are alternative therapies for the treatment of intestinal amebiasis. Clindamycin, in combination with other agents, is effective therapy for toxoplasmosis, pneumocystosis, and babesiosis. Spiramycin is a macrolide antibiotic that is used to treat primary toxoplasmosis acquired during pregnancy. Treatment lowers the risk of the development of congenital toxoplasmosis.

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