Since its discovery in 1978, ivermectin has proved to be one of the most successful drugs for treating a wide variety of parasitic infections. It has been safely used for decades in mass drug administration campaigns to eliminate two neglected tropical diseases: river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis. Its beneficial impact on improving the lives and welfare of billions of people throughout the world gave its discoverers – William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura – the Nobel Prize in 2015.
More recently, it has been shown to have an unusually broad antiparasitic spectrum, a wide therapeutic index and a novel mode of action, lacking cross-resistance with any commonly used anthelmintic drug. It has even been shown to kill mosquitoes and other arthropods feeding on ivermectin-treated individuals, which has prompted its testing as a complementary vector-control tool for reducing malaria transmission. It has also been recognised as a safe antiparasitic medicine for the treatment and control of scabies and strongyloidiasis. Indeed, a recent report of the WHO Expert Committee on Selection and Use of Essential Medicines acknowledged the favourable benefit to harm ratio of ivermectin and its potential public health impact in the treatment of STH including Strongyloides stercoralis.
Due to its exceptional attributes, ivermectin has been labelled a ‘wonder drug’ and is included in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.