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2-min read

Kenyan Scientists Discover a New Way to Fight Malaria Parasite

Ivermectin, discovered 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.

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Updated:September 9, 2019, 3:34 PM IST
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Kenyan Scientists Discover a New Way to Fight Malaria Parasite
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Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease and it’s typically transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito, which carries the Plasmodium parasite. Thereby, when this mosquito bites you, the parasite is released into your bloodstream. There’s no vaccine presently available to prevent malaria. So where the threat of malaria is on a rise with every passing year, an effective way to control it altogether is very important.

A breakthrough new drug that could save countless lives is in the pipeline, as reported by The African Exponent. It has been discovered that a medication which is commonly used to combat river blindness can also kill the parasite that spreads malaria. Kenyan scientists have discovered this highly effective method to combat the parasite which piloted for human trials soon.

According to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the breakthrough could lead to the development of a new class of antimalarial drugs in less than two years. Ivermectin, a bacteria-derived drug used for parasitic diseases, reduced the rates of transmission of malaria as studied in Burkina Faso.

Ivermectin, discovered 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. The drug reportedly made the blood of people repeatedly vaccinated lethal to mosquitoes. The trial also found that Ivermectin can kill Plasmodium falciparum - the malaria parasite species most likely to cause severe malaria and death.

The African Exponent reported that malaria kills one child every two minutes, making it one of the world's leading killers. According to the CDC, in 2016, 445,000 people died from malaria, most of them children. Most malaria-related deaths occur in Africa where more than 250,000 children die from the disease every year. Children under 5 are at the greatest risk of developing life-threatening complications.

Malaria is more common in Africa due to several reasons. The first is the climate in Africa. Malaria is a tropical disease, meaning it is prevalent in or unique to tropical or subtropical regions. A large chunk of Africa falls under tropical and subtropical zones. These zones are more habitable to mosquitoes as opposed to colder areas. Also, local weather conditions allow the transmission to occur all year round.

Furthermore, the mosquito species in Africa is the Anopheles gambiae complex. Anopheles gambiae complex is very efficient and has high transmission rates. Moreover, the type of parasite predominantly found in Africa is Plasmodium falciparum. This species causes severe malaria and death.

Dr Simon Kariuki, head of malaria research at KEMRI, said, “We need more answers on Ivermectin. We need new malaria drugs as soon as possible as drug resistance are not something to ignore and we have to treat the situation as urgent.”

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