Discovering new medicines for relapsing malaria

P. vivax accounts for about half of malaria cases outside of sub-Saharan Africa, often in countries that are close to eliminating malaria.1 Around 8.5 million clinical infections every year are caused by P. vivax.2 Relapsing malaria is a considerable challenge to malaria eradication efforts. Next-generation medicines that are well tolerated in all malaria patients are needed to support these efforts.

The challenge of compliance to primaquine, a P.Vivax treatment

Until 2018, primaquine was the only treatment available to prevent the relapse of Plasmodium vivax malaria. As per the primaquine label and WHO recommendations, it is administered once daily for 14 days – a regimen that is hard for patients to comply with, meaning that many are not cured. 

Single-dose tafenoquine for the radical cure of P. vivax malaria

In 2018 single-dose tafenoquine was approved both by the FDA in the US and the TGA in Australia, becoming the first new medicine in 60 years for the radical cure (prevention of relapse) of P. vivax malaria. Marketing authorization was granted in Brazil in 2019 and Thailand in early 2020, and regulatory submissions made in five other P. vivax-endemic countries between 2018 and 2020. Next steps are continued country registrations and supporting access to new diagnostics. Read more about tafenoquine

Identifying new treatments for relapse prevention

To identify new treatments for relapse prevention, several new assays to screen compounds against liver-stage P. vivax malaria have been developed by MMV’s partners.

More information in an interview with Dr Steve Maher Assistant Research Scientist, Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, University of Georgia, USA

1. World Health Organization. Control and elimination of Plasmodium vivax malaria: a technical brief (2015).

2. World Health Organization. World Malaria Report 2017.