NYMC Faculty Publications

Could the Drug Tafenoquine Revolutionize Treatment of Babesia microti Infection?

Journal Title

The Journal of Infectious Diseases

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Document Type


Publication Date

July 2019


Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology


BACKGROUND: Tafenoquine (TQ) was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for prophylaxis of malaria and, in addition, for eradication of the hepatic phase of the relevant Plasmodium species. In this study, we evaluated the efficacy of TQ for treatment of Babesia microti infection in mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). METHODS: SCID mice were infected with 1.1-1.5 x 108 B. microti-infected red blood cells by intraperitoneal injection. On day 3 or 4 postinfection, when parasitemia levels typically exceeded 10%, mice were treated with TQ vs vehicle alone, both administered by oral gavage. RESULTS: A single dose of TQ completely eliminated detectable parasites, with a >90% reduction in the level of parasitemia within just 4 days. Before elimination, a conspicuous phenotypic change in the parasite was observed. Although parasitologic cure was not achieved, there was no evidence for the development of drug resistance. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that TQ may be a highly useful drug to treat B. microti infection in patients. If further animal studies establish that a marked reduction in B. microti parasitemia can be reliably achieved with peak blood levels of TQ known to be well tolerated in humans, a clinical trial in patients should be considered.