Only drug in US to treat ‘severe’ malaria approved by FDA, federal agency says

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announced the approval of the only drug in the country to treat “severe” cases of malaria in both adults and pediatric patients. The FDA granted approval for the drug, artesunate, for injection, to the Maryland-based company Amivas, according to a Tuesday statement on the federal agency’s website. “Treatment of severe malaria with intravenous (IV) artesunate should always be followed by a complete treatment course of an appropriate oral antimalarial regimen,” the FDA said when announcing its approval. “Prior to this approval, IV artesunate was only available to patients through the FDA’s Expanded Access Program, which allowed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide IV artesunate to U.S. patients with severe malaria and to patients with uncomplicated malaria who are unable to take oral medications under an investigational new drug (IND) protocol,” the FDA said, noting that in the U.S., there has been “no FDA-approved drug for treatment of severe malaria… since the marketing of quinine was discontinued by the manufacturer in March 2019.” In two separate randomized control trials, the drug was found to lower the death rate in those treated with it when compared to patients treated with quinine, the FDA said. “This approval will now give patients more access to a life-saving drug,” said Dr. John Farley, the acting director of the Office of Infectious Diseases in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “Furthermore, the risk of developing severe malaria emphasizes the importance of taking medications to prevent malaria and using mosquito avoidance measures when traveling to malaria-endemic areas.” Each year, the U.S. sees about 2,000 cases of malaria, with 300 of those cases considered severe, as per the FDA.

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How ‘vampire’ spiders could help in the fight against malaria

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has highlighted a pair of unlikely recruits in the battle against human malaria – two species of spider. In particular, the research by Fiona Cross and Professor Robert Jackson cited Evarcha culicivora, an eight-legged vampire, which is drawn to female mosquitoes whose guts are filled with blood. “Evarcha culicivora has a particular hankering for Anopheles mosquitoes – the very mosquitoes notorious for being malaria vectors,” said Jackson, in a statement. “This little spider is a predator that likes us and eats our enemies.” The study also highlighted the role of the Paracyrba wanlessi spider, which feeds on mosquito larvae lurking in pools of water inside bamboo. Both spiders are found in Kenya but live in very different habitats. Evarcha culicivora is typically found on the walls of buildings inhabited by people in East Africa while Paracyrba wanlessi is found in hollow stems of bamboo. “These two spider species are highly specialised mosquito assassins,” said Cross, in the statement. “Like Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the James Cameron movie ‘The Terminator’, these little specialist predators ignore any other insects that get in the way as they pursue their target victims – mosquitoes.” Jackson added that, by attacking blood-filled mosquitoes, Evarcha culicivora acquires a “blood perfume” that is attractive to members of the opposite sex. The scientists’ study has been published in the Journal of Arachnology. In the Journal, the researchers explained that humans have nothing to fear from the spiders, noting that malaria is a mosquito-borne, not spider-borne disease. “It is exceedingly difficult to make a rational case for worrying about malarial spider bites,” they said.

Fascinating!!   🙂