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Psychiatric Effects of Malaria and Anti-Malarial Drugs: Historical and Modern Perspectives


Psychiatric Effects of Malaria and Anti-Malarial Drugs: Historical and Modern Perspectives

Remington L Nevin et al. Malar J.


The modern medical literature implicates malaria, and particularly the potentially fatal form of cerebral malaria, with a risk of neurocognitive impairment. Yet historically, even milder forms of malaria were associated in the literature with a broad range of psychiatric effects, including disorders of personality, mood, memory, attention, thought, and behaviour. In this article, the history of psychiatric effects attributed to malaria and post-malaria syndromes is reviewed, and insights from the historical practice of malariotherapy in contributing to understanding of these effects are considered. This review concludes with a discussion of the potentially confounding role of the adverse effects of anti-malarial drugs, particularly of the quinoline class, in the unique attribution of certain psychiatric effects to malaria, and of the need for a critical reevaluation of the literature in light of emerging evidence of the chronic nature of these adverse drug effects.

Keywords: Anti-malarial drugs; Malaria; Malariotherapy; Psychiatric effects; Toxicity.

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