Ivermectin - an inexpensive, common medication already being used in Africa to treat roundworms that cause river blindness and parasites that cause elephantitis - could also be used to kill mosquitoes carrying malaria parasites, potentially "provid[ing] another useful weapon in the armory against a disease that kills around 800,000 a year, most of them small children and pregnant women," the Guardian's "Global Health Blog" reports (Boseley, 7/6).
Brian Foy and colleagues from Colorado State University monitored mosquito populations in several villages that participated in the mass drug administration (MDA) of ivermectin and compared them with populations found in villages that did not participate in MDA, ScienceNOW reports. The researchers "found that in the treated villages, the proportion of mosquitoes with fully developed P. falciparum in their saliva dropped by 79% in 2 weeks. But in the control villages, the proportion rose by 246%, the researchers report online … in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene," the news service writes.
"The finding suggests mass treatment with ivermectin would be a new weapon against malaria, complementing insecticide spraying, bed nets, and other drugs, Foy says," ScienceNOW reports (Green, 7/6). He "says that this not only is a clever way of getting a toxin directly to the malaria-causing parasite living in mosquitoes, but it also saves the environment from harmful insecticides," VOA News writes (Sinha, 7/6).
"Larger, longer studies will be needed to show whether more frequent, such as monthly, doses of ivermectin during the malaria season in different parts of Africa have an important impact on the disease. But the researchers note that their study suggests it might be possible to use the drug to reduce malaria transmission during epidemics or in well-defined transmission seasons," according to a press release from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (7/6).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.