Antiprotozoal drugs are medicines that are used to treat a variety of diseases caused by protozoa. Protozoa are one-celled organisms, such as amoebas. Some are parasitic and cause infections in the body. African sleeping sickness,giardiasis, amebiasis, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), and malaria are examples of diseases caused by protozoa.
Antiprotozoal drugs come in liquid, tablet, and injectable forms and are available only with a doctor's prescription. Some commonly used antiprotozoal drugs are metronidazole (Flagyl), eflornithine (Ornidyl), furazolidone (Furoxone), hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), iodoquinol (Diquinol, Yodoquinol, Yodoxin), and pentamidine (Pentam 300). The recommended dosage depends on the type ofantiprotozoal drug, its strength, and the medical problem for which it is being used. Check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacistwho filled the prescription for the correct dosage. Always take antiprotozoaldrugs exactly as directed.
Some people feel dizzy, confused, lightheaded, or less alert when using thesedrugs. The drugs may also cause blurred vision and other vision problems. For these reasons, anyone who takes these drugs should not drive, use machinesor do anything else that might be dangerous until they have found out how thedrugs affect them. The antiprotozoal drug furazolidone may cause very dangerous side effects when taken with certain foods or beverages. Likewise, metronidazole (Flagyl) can cause serious liver damage if taken with alcohol. Checkwith the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for a list of products to avoid while taking these medicines.
Anyone who has ever had unusual reactions to antiprotozoal drugs or related medicines should let his or her physician know before taking the drugs again.The physician should also be told about any allergies to foods, dyes, preservatives, or other substances.
Some antiprotozoal drugs may cause problems with the blood. This can increasethe risk of infection or excessive bleeding. Patients taking these drugs should be careful not to injure their gums when brushing or flossing their teethor using a toothpick. They should check with the physician before having anydental work done. Care should also be taken to avoid cuts from razors, nailclippers, or kitchen knives, or household tools. Anyone who has any of thesesymptoms while taking antiprotozoal drugs should call the physician immediately:
- Fever or chills
- Signs of cold or flu
- Signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or inflammation
- Unusual bruising orbleeding
- Black, tarry stools
- Blood in urine or stools
- Pinpoint red spots on the skin
- Unusual tiredness or weakness.
Children are especially sensitive to the effects of some antiprotozoal drugs.Never give this medicine to a child unless directed to do so by a physician, and always keep this medicine out of the reach of children. Use safety vials. Women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant should check with their physicians before taking antiprotozoal drugs. Mothers who are breastfeeding should also check with their physicians about the safety of taking these drugs.
Before using antiprotozoal drugs, people with any medical problems should make sure their physicians are aware of their conditions. The most common side effects are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. These problems usually go away as the body adjusts to the drug and do not require medical treatment. Other rare side effects may occur. Anyone who has any unusual symptoms after taking an antiprotozoal drug should get in touch with his or her physician immediately.
Antiprotozoal drugs may interact with other medicines. When this happens, theeffects of one or both of the drugs may change or the risk of side effects may be greater. Anyone who takes antiprotozoal drugs should let the physicianknow of all other medicines he or she is taking. Be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist before combining antifungal drugs with any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicine.