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Parasitic infections continue to afflict more than half of the world’s population and impose a substantial health burden, particularly in underdeveloped nations, where they are most prevalent. The reach of some parasitic diseases, including malaria, has expanded over the past few decades as a result of factors such as deforestation, population shifts, global warming, and other climatic events. Although there have been significant advances in vaccine development and vector control, chemotherapy remains the single most effective means of controlling parasitic infections. Efforts to combat the spread of some diseases are hindered by the development and spread of drug resistance, the limited introduction of new antiparasitic agents, the proliferation of counterfeit medications, and, most recently, profiteering, which has dramatically increased the cost of once-affordable agents. However, there are good reasons to be optimistic. Ambitious global initiatives aimed at controlling or eliminating threats such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria have demonstrated successes. The ongoing efforts of multinational partnerships to address the substantial burden imposed by neglected tropical diseases have generated mechanisms to develop and deploy effective antiparasitic agents. In addition, the development of vaccines against several tropical diseases, including malaria, continues.

This chapter deals exclusively with the agents used to treat infections due to parasites. Specific treatment recommendations for the parasitic diseases of humans are listed in subsequent chapters. Many of the agents discussed herein are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but are considered investigational for the treatment of certain infections. Drugs marked in the text with an asterisk (*) are available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Drug Service (telephone: 404-639-3670; email:; Drugs marked with a dagger (†) are available only through their manufacturers; contact information for these manufacturers may be available from the CDC.

Table 217-1 presents a brief overview of each agent (including some drugs that are covered in other chapters), along with major toxicities, spectrum of activity, and safety for use during pregnancy and lactation.

TABLE 217-1Overview of Agents Used for the Treatment of Parasitic Infections

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