Kenyan scientists have identified a new drug that makes human blood poisonous to mosquitoes.
When mosquitoes bite people who have recently swallowed the drug, they fall sick and die.
The Kenya Medical Research Institute scientists tested the drug, Ivermectin, at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu.
They said mosquitoes that drank the blood of people who had taken the drug died within 14 days or grew weak and could not bite.
Female mosquitoes suck blood so they can properly form the eggs they lay. The scientists worked on the study with researchers from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
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Ivermectin is a cheap pill already used widely in Kenya to treat roundworms, including the ones that cause river blindness and the leading cause of elephantiasis.
Researchers suspected for decades the drug killed insects. The Kemri team found that giving people doses two times and four times higher than the standard dose was still safe to humans, but dangerous to mosquitoes.
Human blood remained poisonous to mosquitoes for 28 days, which means people in endemic areas would need to swallow the pill monthly.
Kemri director Dr Yeri Kombe said the results would be validated through large-scale trials.
“Ivermectin has the potential to play a role in malaria elimination efforts and will address the current challenges of targeting mosquitoes that are resistant to the standard insecticides used on long lasting insecticidal nets and indoor residual spraying as well us mosquitoes that bite and rest outdoors,” he said.
The results of the study were published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, one of the world’s leading medical journals.
The study proposes high doses of Ivermectin should be added to an antimalarial so as to kill both the mosquito and the parasite that causes malaria.
Dr Menno Smitm the first author on the paper, said the pill can be introduced during mass drug administration.
“We worked with colleagues from Imperial College London, who used our results in a mathematical model, which predicts that the addition of high dose Ivermectin increases the impact on malaria reduction by potentially as much as 61 per cent,” he said. Malaria prevalence in Kenya is about eight per cent.
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