Can Malaria Be Treated With Antibiotics?

Malaria is a parasite-borne disease caused by the bite of a mosquito through its saliva. Malaria can cause significant illness in tropical and endemic regions. Many Treatment options are available to control the disease. Antimalarial drugs have many contractions and a person can develop resistance against them in some geographical areas especially in endemic areas. It was assumed that antibiotics are ineffective against malaria. But, recent studies reveal that some antibiotics have potential to treat and prevent malaria.

Can Malaria Be Treated With Antibiotics?

Can Malaria Be Treated With Antibiotics?

Recent studies reveal that antibiotics are very effective for treatment and prevention of malaria. In many cases, it has been observed that drug resistance has been developed in many geographical regions. The disease has been imposing constant health problems despite uses and chemotherapies.

The antibiotics have their action on the apicoplast of the parasites. Apicoplasts are cellular organ needed by parasites to enter other cells of the host organism. They restrict the growth and reproduction of sporozoites in the liver. Thus, antibiotics are the good option for therapeutic management of severe and complicated cases of malaria. Antibiotics are prescribed in combination with antimalarial drugs to treat malaria.

Some of the antibiotics that can be used to treat malaria are following-


The combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole is known as Co-trimoxazole. Recent studies reveal this combination is very effective to treat malaria in semi-immune children. This drug is recommended by WHO for the treatment of opportunistic infections like malaria in HIV patients worldwide. It is good preventive medicine against malaria in children, adults, HIV positive patients and pregnant women due to its efficacy and safety profile.


Quinolones are the synthetic compounds that can be used as the antimalarial antibiotic. It has been marked that quinolones target the gyrase enzyme of the malarial parasite (the enzyme is responsible for its growth and replication), thereby controlling malaria. Ciprofloxacin (a quinolone) has increased anti-malarial activity against P. falciparum. Quinolones target various stages of malarial parasite (P. vivax and P. ovale) life cycle in liver and blood. Several researchers are still working to discover the best antimalarial drug to prescribe with quinolones to treat malaria.


It is highly effective in cases of severe and complicated malaria especially against P. falciparum when administered intravenously. In drug-resistant areas, it can be given in combination with antimalarial drugs for complicated malaria. It is not recommended for treatment of malaria in children and pregnant women.


Recent studies show this drug can be used in combination with fast-acting malarial drugs to control the growth of malarial parasite in RBCs.

Ketolide Agents

Ketolide agents possess antiplasmodial activity that can delay the DNA translation process in Plasmodium. Further research has been in progress to study this antibiotic for control of malaria.

Fusidic Acid

Fusidic acid is a steroid antibiotic mainly used for inhibition of Staphylococcus bacteria. It has displayed antimalarial activity against P. falciparum parasite by inhibiting parasite’s activity and growth in the first and second cycle of infection in RBCs. However, it’s efficacy is still to be revealed in future research works.

Thiopeptides: Thiostrepton and Nocathiacin

Thiopeptides too possess antimalarial properties. It can inhibit the growth of P. falciparum by its ability to kill gametocytes. It can interfere with RNA replication of P. falciparum. Further studies are in full flow to facilitate the drug as a potential medicine to treat malaria in the future.


The use of antibiotics has been reserved for patients who have developed severe and complicated malaria or patients who have special risks with uncomplicated malaria. Major research studies are in pipeline to prove the efficiency of antibiotics for effective treatment of malaria.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 15, 2018

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