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BACKGROUND: The optimal dosing of primaquine to prevent relapsing Plasmodium vivax malaria in South Asia remains unclear. We investigated the efficacy and safety of different primaquine regimens to prevent P. vivax relapse. METHODS: A systematic review identified P. vivax efficacy studies from South Asia published between 1 January 2000 and 23 August 2021. In a one-stage meta-analysis of available individual patient data, the cumulative risks of P. vivax recurrence at day 42 and 180 were assessed by primaquine total mg/kg dose and duration. The risk of recurrence by day 180 was also determined in a two-stage meta-analysis. Patients with a >25% drop in haemoglobin to <70 g/L, or an absolute drop of >50 g/L between days 1 and 14 were categorised by daily mg/kg primaquine dose. RESULTS: In 791 patients from 7 studies in the one-stage meta-analysis, the day 180 cumulative risk of recurrence was 61.1% (95% CI 42.2% to 80.4%; 201 patients; 25 recurrences) after treatment without primaquine, 28.8% (95% CI 8.2% to 74.1%; 398 patients; 4 recurrences) following low total (2 to <5 mg/kg) and 0% (96 patients; 0 recurrences) following high total dose primaquine (≥5 mg/kg). In the subsequent two-stage meta-analysis of nine studies (3529 patients), the pooled proportions of P. vivax recurrences by day 180 were 12.1% (95% CI 7.7% to 17.2%), 2.3% (95% CI 0.3% to 5.4%) and 0.7% (95% CI 0% to 6.1%), respectively. No patients had a >25% drop in haemoglobin to <70 g/L. CONCLUSIONS: Primaquine treatment led to a marked decrease in P. vivax recurrences following low (~3.5 mg/kg) and high (~7 mg/kg) total doses, with no reported severe haemolytic events. PROSPERO REGISTRATION NUMBER: CRD42022313730.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Glob Health

Publication Date





Malaria, Public Health, Systematic review