Assessment of the prophylactic activity and pharmacokinetic profile of oral tafenoquine compared to primaquine for inhibition of liver stage malaria infections.

Research paper by Qigui Q Li, Michael M O'Neil, Lisa L Xie, Diana D Caridha, Qiang Q Zeng, Jing J Zhang, Brandon B Pybus, Mark M Hickman, Victor V Melendez

Indexed on: 16 Apr '14Published on: 16 Apr '14Published in: Malaria Journal


As anti-malarial drug resistance escalates, new safe and effective medications are necessary to prevent and treat malaria infections. The US Army is developing tafenoquine (TQ), an analogue of primaquine (PQ), which is expected to be more effective in preventing malaria in deployed military personnel.To compare the prophylactic efficacy of TQ and PQ, a transgenic Plasmodium berghei parasite expressing the bioluminescent reporter protein luciferase was utilized to visualize and quantify parasite development in C57BL/6 albino mice treated with PQ and TQ in single or multiple regimens using a real-time in vivo imaging system (IVIS). As an additional endpoint, blood stage parasitaemia was monitored by flow cytometry. Comparative pharmacokinetic (PK) and liver distribution studies of oral and intravenous PQ and TQ were also performed.Mice treated orally with three doses of TQ at 5 mg/kg three doses of PQ at 25 mg/kg demonstrated no bioluminescence liver signal and no blood stage parasitaemia was observed suggesting both drugs showed 100% causal activity at the doses tested. Single dose oral treatment with 5 mg TQ or 25 mg of PQ, however, yielded different results as only TQ treatment resulted in causal prophylaxis in P. berghei sporozoite-infected mice. TQ is highly effective for causal prophylaxis in mice at a minimal curative single oral dose of 5 mg/kg, which is a five-fold improvement in potency versus PQ. PK studies of the two drugs administered orally to mice showed that the absolute bioavailability of oral TQ was 3.5-fold higher than PQ, and the AUC of oral TQ was 94-fold higher than oral PQ. The elimination half-life of oral TQ in mice was 28 times longer than PQ, and the liver tissue distribution of TQ revealed an AUC that was 188-fold higher than PQ.The increased drug exposure levels and longer exposure time of oral TQ in the plasma and livers of mice highlight the lead quality attributes that explain the much improved efficacy of TQ when compared to PQ.