A Nobel prize-winning drug that kills parasitic worms may also work against malaria. Trials of ivermectin in villages in Burkina Faso are estimated to have prevented nearly 100 cases of the disease.
In communities where people took the drug, 25% of children avoided catching malaria during the rainy season, compared with just 16% in the untreated villages. The drug appears to work by weakening or killing the mosquitoes that spread the illness.
The trial does not end until next week, and these are preliminary results, but one of the investigators said they were ‘pretty excited’. Deaths from malaria have been reduced dramatically over the last 15 years, but it still kills about 430,000 people a year, most of them in Africa.
Fighting parasitic worms is also crucial. They can cause illnesses such as river blindness and elephantiasis, and by some estimates, they affect a third of the world’s population.