A breakthrough new drug that could save countless lives is in the pipeline following the discovery that a medication commonly used to combat river blindness can also kill the parasite that spreads malaria.
Ivermectin, a drug discovered in the Streptomyces avermitilis bacteria in 1975, has for more than 25 years been used to kill parasites including lice, mites, worms and nematodes by disrupting the fluid exchange through the insect’s cell membrane.
In March, scientists reported that recent vaccine trials in Burkina Faso using Ivermectin for conditions unrelated to malaria had also seen malarial transmission rates drop significantly.
According to The Guardian, vaccination with the drug made “the blood of people who were repeatedly vaccinated lethal to mosquitoes”. Further research revealed that Ivermectin “can kill plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite carried by female mosquitoes”, the newspaper reports.
Experts now say that a new Ivermectin-based antimalarial drug could be released within two years.
Dr. Simon Kariuki, head of the malaria branch at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), said that human trials are being planned, adding: “We need more answers on Ivermectin. We need new malaria drugs as soon as possible as drug resistance is not something to ignore and we have to treat the situation as urgent.”