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A pill could make your blood poisonous to mosquitoes, research shows

Blood drawn from people treated with three high doses of ivermectin, a medication used to fight parasites, kills mosquitoes, reports a study published Thursday in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The drug could be used to help fight the spread of malaria.
Blood drawn from people treated with three high doses of ivermectin, a medication used to fight parasites, kills mosquitoes, reports a study published Thursday in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The drug could be used to help fight the spread of malaria. The Associated Press file

Who wouldn’t want to turn the tables on mosquitoes?

High doses of ivermectin, a pill used to fight parasites, can turn human blood poisonous to mosquitoes, according to a study published Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The medication could be used to help stem the spread of malaria.

Earlier studies showed that ivermectin, developed in the 1980s to fight parasites that cause river blindness and elephantitis, turns the blood of patients deadly to mosquitoes a short time after treatment, reported National Public Radio.

The new study, conducted in Kenya by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, revealed that the blood of patients who took three high doses of ivermectin in pill form over three days remained poisonous to mosquitoes for up to 28 days. The study found that patients suffered few side effects from the medication, though all were already suffering from malaria.

“The most exciting result was the fact that even one month after (the subjects took) ivermectin, their blood was still killing mosquitoes,” said Dr. Menno Smit of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. “That’s much longer than we thought.”

Researchers took blood samples from 47 participants in the study and fed them to caged mosquitoes, reported NPR.

“We put the blood in an artificial membrane that mosquitoes could bite on and then watched,” Smit said. Most died within a week, and within two weeks 97 percent were dead, the study found.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also participated in the research, according to Science Daily.

Sadly for those in the U.S. mostly interested in getting a little payback at the pests, researchers are primarily looking to ivermectin as a way to combat the spread of malaria by reducing the mosquito population, the site reports. Larger studies and further tests on children also are needed, reported NPR.

Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite, infected 216 million people and killed 445,000 worldwide in 2016, reported the CDC. Africa and South Asia are hot zones for malaria, though about 1,700 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, mostly in travelers.

Fight mosquitoes inside and outside with a few simple tips. Remember to cover windows with screens, remove standing water, and cover your skin with long sleeves and pants. And don't forget insect repellent.

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