News / Health

Drug Used to Treat Head Lice is Effective Against Malaria

Malaria researcher Brian Foy
Malaria researcher Brian Foy
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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs