A drug that was discovered in the 1970s has changed the world. This drug’s cure and prevention rate, for a wide spectrum of diseases and parasites, is hailed as the greatest drug discovery since Arthur Fleming discovered penicillin in 1946.
The drug is taken by millions of people in third world countries and used to eliminate internal parasites in animals. It is so effective that once it is used to treat a systemic disease, one tablet taken twice a year will prevent a recurrence.
It is the most powerful drug ever for treating river blindness in humans. River blindness, which occurs primarily in Africa and Latin America, is caused by a tiny microfilaria parasite (Onchocerca volvulus), which is transmitted by infected blackflies that breed and deposit the microfilariae-containing eggs in fast moving streams and waterways, where the eggs then hatch.
When people fish or wade in these waterways, the immature larval filariae of these parasites bore into their skin much like a mosquito. I suspect if you were wading in a cold, fast moving stream, you might not feel the bite.
These larval filariae mature just under the skin. They form tissue nodules in the legs and feet of fishermen prior to becoming mature adult worms. After mating, the adult female microfilaria releases up to a thousand baby microfilariae per day. They can do this for 10 to 14 years!
Microfilariae migrate to other locations in the human body, where they eventually die. They cause health problems in whatever organ they die in. They can cause skin lesions with intense itching, swelling and skin blotching. Severe symptoms may include blindness, when microfilaria get in the eyes, or “elephant leg” (Leishmaniasis) when they die in a person’s leg.
Elephant leg aptly describes the disease, as an infected person’s leg can swell to the size of a full-grown adult elephant’s leg. This is ugly and very debilitating.
Probably the most disturbing symptoms are when the microfilariae die in an adult men’s genital organs. Words can’t describe the misery these men suffer. I recommend you not look for photos of men so afflicted. I’ll just say the photos involve wheelbarrows. And they aren’t carrying pumpkins.
A number of other conditions caused by migrating microfilariae respond very well to the aforementioned wonder drug. Other parasitic infections also are successfully treated with the wonder drug, including strongyloidiasis (very resistant “small intestinal worm” infection), head lice, round worms, pin worms and scabies (skin mite infestations). Experts also have discovered that this drug stops certain systemic viral infections.
What a wide range of therapeutic uses!
While microfilariae infections aren’t as frequent in this country, compared to third world countries, I know that school nurses still check students for head lice and occasionally must monitor a home situation for children with “worms.”
How was this miracle drug discovered? The Japanese Kitasato Institute discovered it from one organism in one soil sample collected by Japanese scientists. It has never been found since, in Japan or anywhere else in the world. Talk about serendipity!
The Kitasato Institute realized that they might have stumbled on a game-changing drug for potential development. They did some early research but soon recognized they needed more scientific muscle. In the 1980s, the Kitasato Institute then enlisted the pharmaceutical company Merck (known as MSD in Europe) to assist with the drug’s research development.
The Kitasato Institute continued the original research, with Merck picking up the heavy part of the research that was needed to make it a viable commercial antiparasitic drug.
First, Merck discovered it killed most types of worms in animals. It was prescribed as a deworming agent in livestock. As the drug’s traits were fully identified, it became apparent that it would kill the microfilariae of heartworms in the bloodstream of dogs.
As the long research process developed, the drug was discovered to be a new class of antiparasitic agents that are active against a broad range of internal worms and larva, and external insects such as mites, horn flies, ticks and lice. It wasn’t long until they discovered the drug was safe in humans and killed the microfilariae causing river blindness, disfiguring diseases like I described earlier, and certain viral diseases.
Even though Merck had sunk millions into developmental research, the company initially produced the drug at no charge for third world governments whose citizens were becoming infected with filarial diseases. Merck, which now has donated the drug for humanitarian use around the world, has declined to report how many millions they spent in developing the drug for human use.
This was probably the largest philanthropic gift ever made! We have to be careful with our words when lumping all Big Pharma together and criticizing them.
Oh! I forgot. The name of the drug is Ivermectin. This is a wonderful story for humanity about Ivermectin, the Kitasato Institute and Merck!
Disclaimer: Never attempt to dose yourself to prevent or treat COVID-19, with a full or partial dose of oral, injectable or pour-on Ivermectin products that are labeled as horse or cattle dewormers. These products are too concentrated and contain ingredients that have not been tested for safety in humans.