Pet Meds, Laser Fences Could Tackle Insect-Borne Diseases

Scientists say isoxazolines could prevent up to 97% of Zika cases
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2018 10:05 AM CDT
A female Aedes aegypti mosquito, known to be a carrier of the Zika virus, is seen at Brazil's Sao Paulo University.   (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

(Newser) – Scientists are testing new ways to prevent the spread of insect-borne diseases like Zika and malaria, one of which involves sharing medication with your dog. New research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation suggests drugs included in anti-flea and tick medications for pets could prevent 97% of Zika infections and more than 70% of malaria cases if given to 30% of residents in areas likely to see outbreaks, reports the Telegraph. Though a person given isoxazolines could still contract disease from an insect bite, the mosquito or sand fly would be killed by the drug before they could carry the disease to others, say scientists at the California Institute for Biomedical Research. Based on studies of animals rather than humans, the theory could have big implications if proven, especially "in regions with limited medical infrastructure," says researcher Peter Schultz.

Per the Telegraph, 445,000 people died from malaria in 2016 alone, mostly African children under the age of 5. "The drug is a long-term approach to malaria, as it prevents mosquito bites by killing the mosquito population," says researcher Hannah Slater. "There's no parallel." But there are alternatives: gene editing to produce sterile mosquitoes, and introducing predators into ecosystems, per CNN. Intellectual Ventures has also developed a solar-powered laser fence that can differentiate between different insects and kill biting female mosquitoes within 100 feet. Updated dams might be needed, too. Per the Telegraph, a new study blaming dams' standing water for an additional 1.1 million malaria cases in Africa in 2015 found cases around dams with shallow slopes were more than double those around dams with steep slopes. (Read more mosquito stories.)

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