Trovafloxacin, a recently-developed fourth-generation fluoroquinolone, is more potent than other quinolone drugs against a wide range of organisms including Toxoplasma gondii. We assessed the in vitro antimalarial activity of trovafloxacin against three laboratory-adapted Plasmodium falciparum isolates and compared the results with those of ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin. Synchronous and asynchronous cultures were exposed to a range of drug concentrations, and growth inhibition was assessed using H-3-hypoxanthine incorporation. All isolates, both synchronous and asynchronous, exhibited comparable sensitivities with trovafloxacin (EC50 range, 1.8 x 10(-5) to 3.7 x 10(-5) mol/l) and ciprofloxacin (2.0 x 10(-5) to 3.9 x 10(-5) mol/l), but were less sensitive to norfloxacin (5.4 x 10(-5) to 6.6 x 10(-4) mol/l). These results confirm that ciprofloxacin is twice as potent as norfloxacin against P. falciparum in vitro, but also show that trovafloxacin and ciprofloxacin have similar antimalarial potency. The EC50 concentrations of all three drugs were generally higher than those achieved after conventional doses in humans, suggesting that their clinical application may be limited to combination therapy. Recent reports of hepatotoxicity with trovafloxacin may also prevent the use of this drug in humans. However, newer fourth-generation quinolones may prove safer and have similar antimalarial potency. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.