This blog comes in response to the devastating news of the Cambridge student, Alana Cutland, who fell from a light aircraft possibly during a psychotic episode which some people suspect may have been the consequence of the anti malarial medication she was on.
A question lots of our guests ask is, "what should we do about malarial prevention?"
Well. The first thing we'd say is, please, please speak to your GP or physician at home about this first: there are several options available and different prescriptions are appropriate for different people for different reasons.
One of most commonly prescribed oral prophylaxis medications against malaria is Malarone -batovaquone/proguanil hydrochloride - q drug combination that is sold under other names, including Malanil. This drug is usually well tolerated. Alana was taking Larium, Mefloquine, which is also sometimes prescribed for malaria prevention. This isn't the first time Larium has been suspected as having dreadful effects on patients.
I asked my doctor here, a specialist in malaria, what he thought about Larium.
Developed as a very effective cure, he said, “it can have disastrous consequences when taken as a precaution since it has been found to have adverse neurological effects in up to one in every ten patients. It should never ever be prescribed to anybody who has suffered from a psychological illness of any sort - neurosis or psychosis.”
Like most malaria experts, he agrees though that the best prophylaxis is active prophylaxis – that is, don't get bitten: no oral prophylaxis is a sure-bet you won’t get sick.. So: sleep under a net, apply insect repellant to the skin, cover your legs in the evening. Be especially vigilant if you’re out in the evening in a densely populated area; mosquitoes depend on humans, so the more people there are, the more mozzies.
Not getting bitten offers the only guarantee against transmission of the disease