New drug to treat recurrent malaria gets approval

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Caused by plasmodium vivax, recurring malaria affects 8.5 million people around the world every year.

Recurring malaria - caused by the parasite plasmodium vivax - is the most common type of malaria outside Sub-Saharan Africa.

Plasmodium vivax is particularly hard to eradicate because it can lie dormant in the liver for years before reawakening.

The approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States is seen as a shot in the arm for the fight against recurring malaria.

There is already a medication that can be used to get rid of malaria hiding in the liver called primaquine, but it often needs to be taken for 14 days.

Researchers say that affected human beings act as reservoirs for the virus, and mosquitoes can transmit the virus to other people upon a bite.

"This new drug is an important breakthrough, and making it available quickly will help reduce malaria cases globally, especially in Asia and the Americas", Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More, said.

Some experts are concerned that many people feel better after just a few days and stop taking the pills, allowing the parasite to awaken at a later date.

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Scientists have described the single dose tafenoquine as a "phenomenal achievement".

The FDA confirmed that the drug is effective but could come with significant side effects; people with a particular enzyme deficiency (G6PD) can land up with severe anaemia if they take the drug.

"The ability to get rid of the parasite in the liver with a single dose of tafenoquine is a phenomenal achievement and in my mind it represents one of the most significant advances in malaria treatment in the last 60 years", said Ric Price, a professor of Clinical Medicine at Oxford University.

There are also concerns that at higher doses it can be a problem for people with psychiatric illnesses.

"Together with our partner, Medicines for Malaria Venture, we believe Krintafel will. contribute to the ongoing effort to eradicate this disease".

Developed by giant pharmaceutical company GSK, tafenoquine has been in existence since the 1970s but had not been approved for treatment of malaria.

If brought to and approved in India, the tafenoquine drug can do wonders for the Indian population and the country's vision of doing away with malaria.