A mosquito-killing drug can reduce malaria incidence in young children by 20 per cent, results of trial has showed.
Repeated mass administration of the drug ivermectin every three weeks during the malaria transmission season can reduce malaria cases by a fifth among children aged five or younger, showed the trial published in The Lancet journal.
Ivermectin is commonly used to treat parasite infections from river blindness and scabies to head lice.
"Ivermectin reduces new cases of malaria by making a person's blood lethal to the mosquitoes who bite them, killing mosquitoes and therefore reducing the likelihood of infection of others," said Brian D Foy, researcher from the Colorado State University in the US.
"Because ivermectin has a unique mode of action compared to other malaria control insecticides and antimalarial drugs, it could be used alongside drugs that treat malaria to combat residual transmission of the disease," Foy added.
For the study, the team set out to test the safety and efficacy of repeated mass ivermectin administration to control malaria during an 18-week trial.
The team included 2,700 people with 590 children from eight villages in Burkina Faso in West Africa.
All eligible residents -- 1,080 in the intervention group and 999 in the control -- received a single 150-200µg/kg dose of ivermectin plus 400mg of albendazole - an anti-worm medication. The intervention group received five further three-weekly doses of ivermectin alone.
Since 2000, deaths from malaria have dropped by 48 per cent globally and there are fewer endemic regions. However, progress is stalling due to growing resistance to the drug artemisinin that has been integral to that success.
Studies are needed to examine the suspected direct antimalarial effects of repeated ivermectin treatment in infected humans.