Charles Mackenzie, a professor of veterinary pathology, works with elephantiasis patients in Tanzania. Image credit: Michigan State University
EAST LANSING, Mich. — In a major breakthrough that comes after decades of research and nearly half a billion treatments in humans, scientists have finally unlocked how a key anti-parasitic drug kills the worms brought on by the filarial diseases river blindness and elephantitis.
Understanding how the drug ivermectin works has the potential to lead to new treatments for the diseases, in which the body is infected with parasitic worms, said Charles Mackenzie, a professor of veterinary pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and researcher on the project. The diseases afflict about 140 million people worldwide, doing much of their damage in equatorial Africa.
“Ivermectin is one of the most important veterinary and human anti-parasitic agents ever,” Mackenzie said. “Knowing specifically how it interacts with the body’s own immune system and kills parasitic worms opens up whole new treatment avenues.”
The research appears in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (more…)