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Mefloquine is approved to prevent malaria and also to treat mild or moderate cases of malaria. It works by killing the parasite that causes this blood infection. This antimalarial medication is approved for use in adults and children as young as six months old. At this time, there are no off-label (unapproved) uses for mefloquine.

An Overview of Mefloquine Uses

Mefloquine hydrochloride (Lariam®) is a prescription medication licensed to treat mild or moderate malaria. It is also approved to prevent malaria infections from occurring in the first place.

Using Mefloquine to Treat Malaria

Malaria is a blood infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Plasmodium. It is a leading cause of death and disease worldwide, especially in developing countries. While there are over 100 species of Plasmodium, only four types infect humans. These four types include:
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Plasmodium vivax
  • Plasmodium ovale
  • Plasmodium malariae.
Most people get malaria from the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Less commonly, the disease is spread through contact with infected blood. Malaria is not transmitted from person to person, like the common cold or the flu. You cannot get the disease from casual contact with an infected person (see Malaria Causes for more information).
Malaria symptoms typically begin 10 to 30 days after someone becomes infected. It is categorized as uncomplicated or complicated, with symptoms ranging from mild in an uncomplicated infection to severe and life-threatening in complicated cases.
Early or uncomplicated symptoms of malaria include:
  • Fever
  • Sweats
  • Shaking chills
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea.
If the disease progresses, malaria may become complicated or severe. Severe malaria symptoms may include:
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Mental confusion
  • Coma
  • Severe anemia
  • Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Bleeding due to blood clotting problems
  • Death.
Mefloquine is one of several medications used to treat malaria. It is approved to treat mild or moderate malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium vivax. When used to treat an infection caused by P. vivax, mefloquine is often used before another antimalarial medication called primaquine, which is given to prevent malaria relapses.

The key to malaria treatment is starting early. With early treatment, malaria can be cured and the serious effects can be prevented. If treatment is delayed, malaria can be a severe and potentially fatal disease (see Malaria Treatment for more information).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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