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The Buzz

Anti-Parasite Drug Could Turn Humans Into Mosquito-Killing Machines




We've all been there, sitting outdoors trying to enjoy a peaceful summer evening, but it keeps getting interrupted by those pesky blood-sucking mosquitoes.

While the locals are annoying, mosquitos post a much bigger threat in developing countries where they spread malaria and killed 446,000 people in 2016, according to the World Health Organization.

But new research shows scientists may be able to turn the tables, transforming your blood into deadly poison for those mosquitos without any side effects to humans.

The news comes from a study published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Researchers from Kenya and the United Kingdom focused on ivermectin, a drug originally developed to fight parasites that cause river blindness and elephantiasis. For the study, they used two groups: one group of 47 participants that ingested 600 milligrams of ivermectin for three consecutive days, and one group of 48 participants that ingested 300 milligrams of ivermectin for three consecutive days.

Mosquitoes were then fed blood taken from the study participants, and 97 percent of those fed the blood with the higher-dosage of ivermectin died within two weeks.

"We put the blood in an artificial membrane that mosquitoes could bite on and then watched," researcher Menno Smit said, according to NPR. "Most died within a week after (drinking) the blood."

Blood from the lower-dosage study participants also was lethal, but researchers said it was at a lower rate.

 

Given the results and minimal side effects from ivermectin, there's hope this could be a new tool in fighting disease-spreading mosquitos. 

"The most exciting result was the fact that even one month after (the subjects took) ivermectin, their blood was still killing mosquitoes," Smit said. "That's much longer than we thought."

More research is needed because experts aren't sure how safe the drug is for children at high doses. They also warn there is a potential for mosquitoes to build up drug resistence, eventually reducing its effectiveness.

However, they remain optimistic it can be used as a supplemental strategy for controlling the spread of malaria.

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