Abstract Desferrioxamine B (DFO, Desferal R), an iron chelator, was earlier shown to be active against Plasmodium falciparum in vitro and in vivo. The present open pilot study served to assess its clinical tolerability and efficacy in human malaria under hospital conditions. Continuous intravenous DFO was administered to 28 Thai males at a dose of 100 mg/kg over 24 h for 3 consecutive days. No other antimalarial therapy was administered unless recrudescence had occurred. The first 14 patients had symptomatic Plasmodium vivax (P.v.) malaria, while the other 14 patients were suffering from uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria (P.f.). Both groups were treated in Bangkok, where malaria transmission does not take place, and followed up, on the ward, for 3 weeks (P.v. group) or 4 weeks (P.f. group) after the start of therapy. In both groups DFO reduced the parasitaemia to zero within 106 and 57 h respectively. The fever clearance time was 55 and 60 h, respectively. The overall tolerability of DFO was good but 4 P.v. and 5 P.f. patients had transient visual blurring. Recrudescences were observed on average 15, respectively 10 days after the start of therapy. Only 2 P.v. patients and none of the P.f. patients remained free of recrudescences during the observation period. There was no apparent gametocytocidal effect of DFO on P.f.