A new drug fights malaria by killing the disease instead of its mosquito carriers

But can it be scaled?



Mosquitoes can sometimes seem like humanity’s greatest enemy—the malaria-ridden bloodsuckers are responsible for about half of all deaths since the Stone Age. The most common tactic to combat malaria is killing mosquitoes and draining the stagnant waters in which they spawn. But the Chinese pharmaceutical company Artepharm has come up with a new solution it’s now testing in the Comoros, an island nation off the east African coast: kill the disease, not the carrier.

The parasite responsible for malaria requires human hosts to spread. Artepharm has created a cocktail of drugs that flushes out the parasite from humans, and when administered to an entire population, denies malaria the refuge it needs to propagate. This carpet-bombing strategy has resulted in a 95% reduction of new infections on some Comoran islands. But the drugs don’t provide permanent immunity, so constant monitoring is necessary to make sure malaria doesn’t return. So don’t throw out your bug zappers yet—it remains to be seen if the strategy can be scaled.