News / Health

Drug Used to Treat Head Lice is Effective Against Malaria

Malaria researcher Brian Foy
Malaria researcher Brian Foy
TEXT SIZE - +
Vidushi Sinha

Researchers have found that an inexpensive and widely-available drug used to treat river blindness in Africa and head lice in American school children is also effective in reducing malaria transmission, especially during seasonal epidemics of this worldwide scourge. 

“Can you kill a mosquito when it’s biting you [with] something that’s in your blood," asked Brian Foy.

Malaria researcher Brian Foy of Colorado State University found out that yes, you can.  He is working on a malaria control program and says there are many benefits to killing mosquitos as they bite their hosts.

Foy says that this not only is a clever way of getting a toxin directly to the malaria-causing parasite living in mosquitos, but it also saves the environment from harmful insecticides.

In a field study done on malaria transmission in Senegalese villages, Foy and his colleagues found that a drug already widely used for treating the two most common parasitic diseases in Africa - river blindness and elephantiasis - also has insecticidal properties.

“We are repurposing a really cheap and important drug for worm control potentially to control malaria," he said.

The study shows that after single doses of the drug Ivermectin were administered to residents of several Senegalese villages, there was a 79 percent reduction in mosquitoes found to be carrying the malaria parasite.  In villages where the drug was not given, the malarial mosquitoes increased by 246 percent.

Researchers found that the drug circulating in people’s blood killed the mosquitoes.  Ivermectin is given once every year in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa to fight common infections.  But researchers say that if the drug is given more often, it can provide other benefits.

“If you give it more often, [as] we are proposing for malaria transmission control, it will start to have an effect against the soil-transmitted illness that people have in their guts - things like whip worm, round worm and maybe even hookworms, which cause a lot of hidden illnesses in people," said Foy.

Peter Hotez, president of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, calls Foy's study groundbreaking.  He says it proves what many public health researchers have long suspected - that drugs used to combat neglected tropical diseases have important collateral health benefits.

“It opens up a new pathway for discovering an additional class of drugs specifically for this purpose - maybe a drug that can circulate in the body longer and then be better targeted for malaria specifically," said Hotez.

Malaria kills almost 800,000 people around the world each year.  Experts say Ivermectin would be a welcome addition to the anti-malaria arsenal of bed nets, pesticides, drugs and, perhaps one day soon, a vaccine.  Public health experts say all these weapons will be needed in the years ahead to eradicate malaria permanently.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid