Public Health Resources


Date of this Version



Preventing Malaria with Primaquine, CID 2003:37 (15 December), 1659-1667


U.S. Government Work


An expanding risk and range of endemic malaria threatens travelers. Primaquine is an old drug recently demonstrated to offer effective prophylaxis. Clinical trials conducted in Indonesia, Kenya, and Colombia showed that a primaquine base (30 mg per day) had protective efficacy against Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax of 85%–93%. Among 339 children (age, >8 years) and adults taking this regimen for 12– 52 weeks, there was no greater risk of adverse symptomatic events among primaquine users than among recipients of placebo in double-blind studies. Among 151 subjects evaluated after 20 or 52 weeks of daily primaquine therapy, methemoglobinemia was found to be mild (<13%; typically <6%) and transient (duration, <2 weeks). We consider primaquine base (0.5 mg/kg per day consumed with food) to be safe, well-tolerated, and effective prophylaxis against malaria for nonpregnant persons and those with normal glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase levels. Primaquine’s major advantage over most drugs for chemoprophylaxis is that it does not have to be taken before entering or beyond 3 days after leaving a malarious area.