A pill to kill biting mosquitoes
Dr. Regina Rabinovich's team is out to prove the effectiveness of ivermectin pills as part of a US$ 25.3 million grant to ISGlobal. Mosquitoes die if they bite humans or livestock treated with ivermectin. The project is focused on sub-Saharan Africa, whose Anopheles mosquitoes are considered "the gorilla of the species" in terms of aggressiveness and adaptability.
The medicine has been used for the last 30 years to treat other parasitic diseases, but this is the first time a drug has been used to kill mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
"Ivermectin could complement approaches that don't manage to tackle mosquitoes," says Rabinovich.
Even standard ways of fighting mosquitoes have their drawbacks: bednets get torn, mosquitoes may not land on insecticide-treated surfaces, and long-used insecticide sprays are no longer effective because mosquitoes have grown resistant to them. Meanwhile, mosquitos take advantage of opportunities presented by inhabited areas: they feed at night on the livestock in family compounds and on people gathering outdoors in the evenings.
An important element of ISGlobal's project is explaining clearly to people taking ivermectin that the drug will not stop them, individually, from getting malaria, nor is it a malaria treatment. Rather, it is a vector-control tool, for the entire community, to reduce the mosquito population. Therefore, people should be aware they can still get malaria. "We will make sure communities understand that whenever they have fever, they need to get care."
A repellent fit for crises
Unitaid's project with the University of Notre Dame is testing a new kind of slow-release repellent that could provide valuable protection for displaced people living in temporary settlements.
Dr. John Grieco explains that the small plastic sheets release a chemical into the air that drives mosquitoes away.
Because they are light and simple to use, spatial repellents could prove effective in humanitarian crises such as natural disasters or armed conflicts which force refugees to live in camps.
"Spatial repellents can protect people from malaria where it's not practical to use other tools, such as in refugee camps," says Grieco.
A US$ 33.7 million grant to the University of Notre Dame seeks to demonstrate the efficacy of these innovative products in reducing malaria.
Grieco said Unitaid's support for the project is especially valuable because there is little funding available for much-needed innovations in vector control.