Although erythromycin has been reported to be active against Plasmodium falciparum in vitro and P. berghei in vivo and in vitro when given alone or with chloroquine, it has been difficult to demonstrate a beneficial effect for the combination of erythromycin and chloroquine when used for the treatment of P. falciparum infections in humans. We developed a seven-day test of parasite sensitivity to a 4-aminoquinoline and erythromycin combination in vitro. Eight isolates of P. falciparum from the Kenyan coast were culture-adapted and exposed to erythromycin with chloroquine or with amodiaquine. The interaction of the drugs was evaluated by plotting the concentration of each drug needed to inhibit parasite growth. In seven isolates the combination of chloroquine and erythromycin was antagonistic; one isolate showed slight synergy The combination of amodiaquine and erythromycin was synergistic in three isolates but antagonistic in five. An antagonistic interaction may explain why erythromycin does not enhance chloroquine treatment of malaria in vivo in Kenya.
Khan, B., Brandling-Bennett, A. D., Watkins, W. M., Oloo, A. J., Ojoo, P., Koech, D. K.