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Due to drug resistance, commonly used anti-Babesia drugs have limited efficacy against babesiosis and inflict severe side effects. Tafenoquine (TAF) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018 for the radical cure of Plasmodium vivax infection and for malaria prophylaxis. Here, we evaluated the efficacy of TAF for the treatment of Babesia infection and elucidated the suspected mechanisms of TAF activity against Babesia parasites. Parasitemia and survival rates of Babesia rodhaini-infected BALB/c and SCID mice were used to explore the role of the immune response in Babesia infection after TAF treatment. Parasitemia, survival rates, body weight, vital signs, complete blood count, and blood biochemistry of B. gibsoni-infected splenectomized dogs were determined to evaluate the anti-Babesia activity and side effects of TAF. Then, to understand the mechanism of TAF activity, hydrogen peroxide was used as an oxidizer for short-term B. rodhaini incubation in vitro, and the expression levels of antioxidant enzymes were confirmed using B. microti-infected mice by reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR). Acute B. rodhaini and B. gibsoni infections were rapidly eliminated with TAF administration. Repeated administration of TAF or a combination therapy with other antibabesial agents is still needed to avoid a potentially fatal recurrence for immunocompromised hosts. Caution about hyperkalemia should be taken during TAF treatment for Babesia infection. TAF possesses a babesicidal effect that may be related to drug-induced oxidative stress. Considering the lower frequency of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency in animals compared to that in humans, TAF use on Babesia-infected farm animals and pets is eagerly anticipated.


Mingming Liu, Shengwei Ji, Daisuke Kondoh, Eloiza May Galon, Jixu Li, Mizuki Tomihari, Masashi Yanagawa, Michihito Tagawa, Mami Adachi, Masahito Asada, Ikuo Igarashi, Aiko Iguchi, Xuenan Xuan. Tafenoquine Is a Promising Drug Candidate for the Treatment of Babesiosis. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy. 2021 Jun 17;65(7):e0020421

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PMID: 33941516

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