Chloroquine makes a comeback to combat malaria

Washington: A study at the University of Copenhagen has shown that the previously efficacious drug chloroquine is once again beginning to work against malaria.

And scientists believe this will ensure cheaper treatment for the world’s poor.

Scientists and healthcare personnel the world over fear that the malarial parasite will develop resistance to the current frontline treatment against malaria, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs).

Therefore, it is especially good news that resistance monitoring at the University of Copenhagen shows that in several African countries, malaria parasites are succumbing to the formerly used drug chloroquine.

“70 percent of the malaria parasites we found in Senegal are reacting once again to chloroquine. This is a trend we have also seen in Tanzania and Mozambique, and which other researchers have shown in Malawi. Our choice of drugs against malaria is limited and related, so when the malaria parasite once again reacts to a substance, it influences several treatment methods,” explained Michael Alifrangis, associate professor at the Center for Medical Parasitology at the University of Copenhagen.

He and Magatte Ndiaye, PhD student at Universite Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal, are keeping an eye on the malaria parasite’s sensitivity to drugs by analyzing the parasites’ DNA.

If healthcare personnel in developing countries can begin using chloroquine again, it will open up some promising perspectives. It will be possible to protect the currently used medicine and delay the reappearance of resistance, and it will also give a large group of patients access to cheaper treatment.

Chloroquine costs only 25 US cents for a four-day cure, while the current and corresponding ACTs cost two dollars, according to Professor Ib Bygbjerg M.D.

“Chloroquine was a fantastic malaria drug that lasted for 50 years. However, it was misused for malaria prevention and ordinary fever, and even mixed with cooking salt, so it can come as no surprise that the malaria parasite became resistant to the active ingredient,” explained Professor Bygbjerg.

He also pointed out that reuse will require correct drug use and the training of healthcare personnel to make more accurate diagnoses.

According to him, three factors determine the extent to which a malaria drug will work: 1) the size of the dose, 2) how sensitive the parasite is to the drug, and 3) the extent to which the patient has developed a natural immunity to malaria.

The results have just been published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.