Grant to improve the treatment of neglected tropical diseases in children

A Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) project that aims to better treat neglected tropical diseases in children has secured funding support.

Associate Professor Amanda Gwee and project mentor Professor Andrew Steer have been awarded USD $26,000 from a Thrasher Research Fund early-career grant to study the use of the antiparasitic medication ivermectin in young children. 

"Ivermectin is an important drug for the prevention and treatment of neglected tropical diseases, however, it's currently inaccessible to young children who are most vulnerable to these diseases," Associate Professor Gwee said.

One of the specific therapeutic uses for ivermectin is scabies, a contagious skin condition caused by a tiny, burrowing mite, which is recognised by the World Health Organization as a neglected disease. 

Scabies affects 200 million children at any one time, including up to 30 per cent of children in resource-poor settings, and children aged under five years are the most vulnerable. 

"Ivermectin is not currently approved in children in this age group because a safe, effective dose for young children has not been clinically validated," Associate Professor Gwee said. 

To address this research gap, her team will enroll 100 children from Laos with scabies between the ages of two and four and weighing less than 15kgs. 

Study participants will be given 3mg of ivermectin to determine if this achieves similar drug exposures to the recommended dose in older children and is safe and effective for the treatment of scabies infection

Associate Professor Gwee said this research would have a significant global health impact in both the prevention and treatment of neglected tropical diseases and hopefully make ivermectin accessible to children worldwide.