Chance discovery: Unintended consequence of ivermectin highlights potential benefits of integration – FT.comPosted: April 25, 2013
In a number of African countries ivermectin is now distributed twice a year – albeit often in the dry season when transport is easier.
Timing its use, however, with the peak malaria biting period could help reduce the burden of the three diseases simultaneously – as well as that of scabies.
That is not the only advantage of adopting a less “vertical” single disease-focused approach. Long-lasting insecticide impregnated bednets increasingly provided to tackle malaria are also effective in reducing the burden of lymphatic filarasis. Nonetheless, Mr Bockarie says many organisations contracted to provide nets to fight malaria would do well to talk with longer-standing community drug administrators for lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. “Some groups are really not talking to each other,” he says.
A final synergy with malaria comes from another neglected tropical disease: worms. Deworming programmes run in schools in Kenya have allowed researchers to get accurate information from children of the extent to which bednets distributed to their homes are actually being put to use.
Such feedback – which suggests that fewer nets are slept under than are distributed to the public – will prove useful in improving coverage and the accompanying education efforts to boost use. With money increasingly tight, cross fertilisation between disease networks could prove ever more a necessity than an unintended bonus.