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MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) — Taking the same well-known flea drugs commonly given to dogs and cats could protect humans against mosquitoes carrying malaria, Zika, and other diseases, a new study suggests.
The meds could also protect you from sand flies bearing the tropical disease leishmaniasis.
A class of drugs called isoxazolines, if given to less than a third of the population in areas prone to outbreaks of insect-borne diseases, could prevent up to 97% of all cases of infection, according to research published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Isoxazolines are contained in the veterinary products fluralaner (Bravecto) and afoxolaner (NexGard), which protect pets from fleas and ticks. An animal’s bloodstream absorbs these medicines, which are given orally, and spreads them throughout the body. The drugs, which remain active for up to three months, kill blood-sucking fleas and ticks.
In humans, a single dose of the medicine might also act as an insecticide effective against mosquitoes and sand flies for between 50 and 90 days, say the collaborating scientists from Calibr, a nonprofit drug discovery institute affiliated with Scripps Research, and TropIQ Health Sciences, an international entrepreneurial enterprise based in the Netherlands. The drugs also were effective against insect strains that are resistant to common insecticides, the researchers say.
The scientists, whose work is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, admit to not testing their theories on actual people but say they’ve conducted experimental studies on mosquitoes and based their calculations on research on Isoxazolines in animals.
Still, give them points for creativity; this is an entirely new strategy for an ancient problem: warding off mosquito- and fly- borne illnesses that sicken millions of people worldwide each year.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report)