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Academic Minute

Dr. Brian Foy, Colorado State University - Anti-Mosquito Pill

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-985333.mp3

Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Brian Foy of Colorado State University explains his work with a drug that could revolutionize mosquito control in malaria-ravaged areas.

Brian Foy is an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology at Colorado State University. His research interests include vector biology, arbovirology, malaria, and immunological interactions at the interface of hosts, vectors, and pathogens. He holds a Ph.D. from Tulane University.

About Dr. Foy

Dr. Brian Foy - Anti-Mosquito Pill

Malaria is an ancient scourge of humans and continues to be one of the deadliest diseases in Africa, causing the deaths of nearly a million children under the age of 5 each year. Malaria parasites are spread insidiously. A mosquito ingests the parasite in infected human blood, and then the parasite develops in the mosquito for about 2 weeks, and finally is transmitted to a new person by a subsequent mosquito bite. This can be an efficient process because many malaria-transmitting mosquitoes are highly adapted to biting humans frequently and almost exclusively.

However, my colleagues and I are trying to control malaria transmission by using this efficiency to our advantage...by attacking the mosquito when it bites people! An exceptionally safe drug, called ivermectin, is already mass-administered to millions of people in villages throughout the tropics to control parasitic worms - but a mosquito will also ingest a little bit of ivermectin when it takes a blood meal from a treated person. We have shown in the lab this little bit of drug can kill malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, and have measured the same effect against wild blood-fed mosquitoes caught in villages in Senegal after the villagers took the drug. Most importantly, malaria parasite transmission in the ivermectin-treated villages was significantly disrupted after villagers took the drug. Our models suggest that giving the drug to villages every 3-6 weeks during a rainy season could result in sustained malaria transmission control.

The potential benefits of this novel control strategy are strong. Ivermectin would work against mosquitoes that bite anywhere and at anytime of day, compared to other control methods, like bednets, that only work when people are sleeping under the nets. Most importantly, the synergistic cost and health benefits are very promising, because ivermectin would kill parasitic worms in individuals and simultaneously prevent malaria transmission among the affected community.

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