A study conducted in Burkina Faso has demonstrated that repeated dosages of an anti-parasitic drug can help prevent malaria. The drug, Ivermectin, is used to treat head lice and scabies, and is lethal to mosquitos. So if you’ve taken Ivermectin and a mosquito bites you, it dies!
Malaria – a global burden
Malaria is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by a parasite called Plasmodium. It is transmitted to humans when an infected female Anopheles mosquito bites. While preventable and treatable, it continues to cause millions of deaths worldwide – especially in tropical regions. This is due to the emergence of an antimalarial drug-resistant plasmodium parasite.
While Ivermectin has previously been known to be lethal to mosquitoes, it has never been used as prevention for malaria. Until now, that is. In 2015, Foy et al carried out a study in Burkina Faso aiming to test Ivermectin’s safety and efficacy in preventing Malaria.
According to Dr. Foy:
“Because of mosquitoes’ ability to adapt to control tools, new methods of preventing the transmission of malaria are needed, in particular those that target residual transmission. Ivermectin is well tolerated and widely used so it could be a useful tool in disease reduction if further trials show similar results.”
Ivermectin – the study
The study, published in 2019, included 2712 participants, including 590 children, split into an intervention and a control group. All participants received one dose of Ivermectin paired with albendazole (an anti-worm medication). The intervention group received 5 further doses of Ivermectin at 3 week intervals.
The study found a 20% drop in Malarial incidence in children from the intervention group with minimal side effects. Furthermore, the researchers suspect that the reported side effects could be biased. This is because of a study design limitation i.e. the participants knew which study group they were in.
While this is a small scale study with limitations, it is a proof-of-principal that Ivermectin can indeed be used to prevent Malaria. The authors conclude that larger, double blinded trials can further confirm Ivermectin’s safety so it is worth looking in to.
“Ivermectin reduces new cases of malaria by making a person’s blood lethal to the mosquitoes who bite them, killing mosquitoes and therefore reducing the likelihood of infection of others. Because ivermectin has a unique mode of action compared to other malaria control insecticides and antimalarial drugs, it could be used alongside drugs that treat malaria to combat residual transmission of the disease.”– Dr Brian Foy, study author