A new tool in the fight against malaria - a drug that has long been used to kill tropical parasites.
It has been used for decades to treat tropical diseases, but researchers believe they have found a new use for ivermectin – preventing the spread of malaria. According to a report from Newsweek, researchers William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura, who originally developed ivermectin, recently won the Nobel Prize for their research.
Ivermectin could help solve the growing problem of drug resistance faced by researchers battling malaria. Ivermectin has been used for years to rid the body of the parasites that can lead to river blindness and elephantiasis. It can fight intestinal worms, and has only recently been found to be effective at controlling the spread of malaria.
Scientists from Colorado State University and the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé are currently working in Burkina Faso to test ivermectin’s effectiveness at preventing the spread of malaria. They recently presented their findings at the yearly meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
According to Brian Foy, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Colorado, giving the drug to all of the adults in a community can lower rates of childhood malaria by as much as 16 percent. They administered the drug to adults once every three weeks in four villages in Burkina Faso during the last four months’ rainy season, when mosquitos are most abundant.
When a mosquito ingests the blood of a person who has taken ivermectin, it will die or become poisoned. The drug has not only the potential to help cull mosquitos, but it can also address the problem of malarial drug resistance. The WHO has reported that resistance to malaria drugs has been reported in 60 percent of the parasites known to cause the disease.
Once a parasite develops resistance to one drug, it is very easy for them to resist other similar compounds. When a person becomes infected with malaria, the currently available medications can only do so much.
Researchers believe that in conjunction with antimalarial drugs, ivermectin can put a huge dent in mosquito populations and ultimately the spread of a deadly disease that has plagued the world for far too long.