Roundworm medication may be able to fight malaria

Researchers at Colorado State University have discovered that a cheap and common medication used to fight roundworm and other parasites could be used in the fight against malaria.

The researchers found a link when the rate of transmission of malaria fell among those taking Ivermectin during an effort to prevent river blindness. The roundworm, Onchocerca volvulus, causes river blindness.

“The discovery of the multiple benefits of this drug in fighting parasites and mosquitoes carrying parasites is exciting,” Brian Foy, the senior author of the study and a vector biologist at CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said. “We need innovative, new tools to fight malaria, and using ivermectin as a tool is especially exciting because it fights multiple diseases in the same community of people.”

Foy and a team of researchers gathered and analyzed data for two years as part of the study. They found that mosquitoes carrying the deadliest strain of malaria in the villages where people were taking Ivermectin dropped by 79 percent two weeks after the drug was administered. In villages where people weren’t taking the drug, the number of mosquitoes increased by 246 percent.

Foy said that scientists must better understand how dosages and timing of the doses will impact the use of the drug as a preventative strategy. Malaria kills close to 800,000 people throughout the world each year, with most deaths occurring in children in Africa. Foy eventually hopes to propose a small clinical trial in Africa.

River blindness, which is effectively and cheaply treated with Ivermectin, affects approximately 18 million people a year. Approximately 270,000 people become blind from the disease each year. Ivermectin is also used to prevent heartworm, intestinal worms in animals and to treat head lice in the United States.

The study is funded in part using grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations program and with grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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