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How does Doxycycline protect against Malaria?

7th June 2019

Malaria may not be something that we have to worry about here in the UK, but if you are planning a trip or holiday then it’s certainly something you’ll need to think about with travel medication.

Malaria is a deadly disease that infects your blood and can cause symptoms such as a fever, shakes and chills. The disease is caused by a Plasmodium parasite that is carried by mosquitoes and passed on to humans through a deadly bite. Once the parasite is in your symptoms, it matures in the liver and then begins infecting your red blood cells and causes them to burst open.

The mosquitoes that carry the parasite are only present in tropical and subtropical climates though, which is why we don’t have to worry about Malaria in the UK. As a general rule, you will find that malaria hotspots appear around the equator but if you are planning an exotic trip, always make sure to check what your malaria risk is first. In fact, we made a handy hotspot map for you to see where all the highest risk areas of malaria are.

What do I need to do to protect against Malaria?

Once you’ve established that the area you’ll be travelling to poses a risk of Malaria, you’ll need to take action and be organised in advance. Even if the place you’re going to is considered ‘low risk’, you’re always better to protect against malaria than to risk it. After all, ‘low risk’ does not mean ‘no risk’ and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

While a lot of travel precautions involve getting a vaccination (yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid), protection against malaria is only available in tablet form and you will need to obtain these by getting a prescription.

There are a variety of types of antimalarial medication and the type that you are prescribed will vary depending on where you’re going, how long you’re going for, yours (and your family’s) medical history and your age. There may also be special cases to consider such as if you’re pregnant or if you’ve had any problems with antimalarial medicines in the past.

While there are a number of medications specifically designed for Malaria prevention (Malarone, Lariam), tetracycline antibiotics such as Doxycycline also prove to be effective at protecting against the disease.

How does Doxycycline protect against Malaria?

Most antimalarials work by attacking the Plasmodium parasites as soon as they enter the red blood cells and work to kill them before they are able to multiply or cause any damage. As a tetracycline antibiotic, you would normally associate Doxycycline with treating diseases caused by bacteria, not by parasites. However, they do work in protecting against Malaria because of the function of the drug.

Tetracycline antibiotics work by binding to the part of the bacteria that builds proteins, and prevent it from being able to grow or attach itself to your cells. The action of tetracyclines (like Doxycycline) in Malaria has been well-researched but so far, not massively well understood. However, it’s thought to act on the parasite in a similar way to how it acts on bacteria; to inhibit its apply to grow and killing it in the process.

Why choose Doxycycline?

There a number of benefits to choosing Doxycycline over other antimalarial drugs. For starters, it tends to be the least expensive and when so many other parts of a long-haul trip need budgeting for, most people would rather have an affordable medication.

Another thing about Doxycycline is that it’s the preferred choice for any last-minute travellers, as the drug is only started 1-2 days before travelling. You can typically receive this drug with overnight shipping from our online pharmacy most days of the week. It’s also a multi-use drug, which means that it can protect against other ailments and infections - perfect for those planning on camping, hiking or doing any activities in water while they’re away. It’s multi-use characteristic also means that people may already be taking it (like for chronic acne) and therefore will not need to consider any additional medication.

Like everything though, there are two sides to every argument. A lot of people may shy away from antibiotics on the basis of not wanting to risk a stomach upset (or a yeast infection, for those who are prone to them). Doxycycline also needs to be taken every day, which some people may find inconvenient.