Veterinary flea drugs to stop malaria

Veterinary flea drugs to stop malaria
Predicted impact of mass administration of an isoxazoline drug on malaria incidence in Africa. Credit: Calibr/TropIQ Health Sciences

A new study led by scientists at non-profit drug discovery institute Calibr has found that medicines given to household pets to kill fleas and ticks could be effective for preventing outbreaks of malaria, Zika and other dangerous insect-borne diseases. The researchers found that isoxazolines, a class of drugs sold in veterinary products to protect pets from fleas and ticks, also kill species of disease-carrying mosquitoes that feed on human blood.

“Insect-borne infectious diseases remain primary causes of severe illnesses and fatalities worldwide, and new approaches to preventing outbreaks of these diseases are critically needed,” said Dr Peter Schultz, CEO of Calibr and Scripps Research. “Our findings suggest that isoxazolines might be effective at controlling outbreaks of diseases carried by mosquitos and other insects in regions with limited medical infrastructure.”

The researchers investigated the possibility of giving humans isoxazolines to block the transmission of diseases by insect vectors. Working with researchers at Imperial College London, UK, the team used computer epidemiology models to estimate that giving the drugs to just 30 per cent of the population in a region where Zika is common could prevent more than 97 per cent of cases.

“In many regions where seasonal outbreaks are endemic, medical infrastructure is such that delivery of medical care is on an intermittent basis,” said Dr Matt Tremblay, Chief Operating Officer of Calibr and Scripps Research and a senior author on the PNAS paper. “Isoxazolines could be administered prior to the beginning of seasonal disease outbreaks to convey protection until the threat diminishes at the end of the season.”