Nobel-winning drug ‘tackles malaria’

A parasitic-worm-killing drug, whose discovery won the Nobel prize, may also cut cases of malaria. Early data coming out of trials of ivermectin in Burkina Faso suggest it leads to 16% fewer cases of childhood malaria. Scientists at the the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s conference, said the drug was toxic to blood-drinking mosquitoes.
They said their findings were pretty exciting, but still at an early stage. Ivermectin is already used to kill parasitic worms, which affect a third of the world’s population and cause illnesses including river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. Mosquitoes, which spread the malaria parasite, are weakened or die if they drink the blood of someone recently treated with ivermectin.
So the US Colorado State University and the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé in Burkina Faso are trying to see if it can be used to save lives. Eight villages are in the middle of a trial in which everyone in half of the villages are being given ivermectin every three weeks.
It started in July and finishes next week, but an early analysis has been presented to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Dr Brian Foy, from the Colorado State University, told the BBC News website: "The early signs are looking pretty good. Children in the treatment arm of the trial are getting less malaria.
"We’re pretty excited about this and it doesn’t look like there is any kind of adverse effect, but the data is not done until it’s done." In the untreated villages, 16% of children did not develop malaria during this rainy season compared with 25% in those being treated.
The scientists estimate that 94 bouts of malaria have been prevented in the 325 children in the villages being treated. Global deaths from malaria have fallen by 60% since 2010, however, the success is being put under threat by the rise of artemisinin-resistant malaria in south-east Asia.