Treatment and prevention of malaria in pregnancy: opportunities and challenges

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Control of malaria in pregnancy through prevention or treatment may save lives of mothers and babies. Selection of drugs for treatment of infected pregnant women, or for prevention in exposed populations is problematic owing to resistance to established drugs and lack of pregnancy-specific safety and pharmacological data for new drugs. Encouragingly, a number of new drugs and combinations of drugs hold promise for effective treatment, but adequate data on their safety in pregnancy is currently lacking. Our principal challenges are to decide which drugs to develop for use in malaria treatment and prevention in pregnancy and to develop mechanisms to rapidly and comprehensively evaluate their safety. Prevention of pregnancy malaria by vaccination may also become possible, but targets must be closely defined, and strategies developed to test candidates against meaningful end points.

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