Ivermectin, a drug developed to fight parasites responsible for river blindness and elephantiasis, may be used to make human blood poisonous to mosquitoes.
Making Human Blood Poisonous To Mosquitoes
In a new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday, March 29, researchers in Kenya gave 47 participants 600 milligrams of ivermectin for three consecutive days and then took blood samples that were then fed to mosquitoes in cages.
The study found that the blood of patients who took three high doses of ivermectin in pill form can be poisonous to mosquitoes for up to 28 days. The researchers found that two weeks after feeding on the blood placed in artificial membranes, 97 percent of the mosquitoes in the cage died.
"The most exciting result was the fact that even one month after (the subjects took) ivermectin, their blood was still killing mosquitoes," said study researcher Menno Smit from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
The researchers also gave 300 milligrams of ivermectin to another group of 48 participants, but the death rate of mosquitoes that fed on their blood samples was not as high.
Smit and colleagues also said that the patients showed few side effects from taking the medication albeit they were already suffering from the mosquito-borne malaria.
The study showed that high doses of the pill could make human blood deadly for mosquitoes and this could help curb the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.
"Ivermectin at both doses assessed was well tolerated and reduced mosquito survival for at least 28 days after treatment," the researchers wrote in their study. "Ivermectin 300 μg/kg per day for 3 days provided a good balance between efficacy and tolerability, and this drug shows promise as a potential new tool for malaria elimination."
Mosquitoes are considered among the world's deadliest animals. They are carriers of viruses that cause Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya, diseases that cause millions of deaths per year.
Figures from the World Health Organization show that malaria alone caused 438,000 deaths in 2015. The Zika epidemic in 2015 also resulted in babies being born with microcephaly, a birth defect marked by smaller than normal heads due to the brain not developing properly during pregnancy.
Two years after the Zika outbreak, researchers also found that some of the babies born to mothers infected by the virus suffer from vision problems, hearing difficulties, and motor impairments that prevent them from sitting on their own.