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Landmark Lesson Plan: Discovery of Ivermectin - Preventing Blindness and Heartworm

Grades: 9-12
Subject areas: Chemistry, medicine, and history
Principal author: Erica K. Jacobsen

The following inquiry-based student activities are designed for use in high school lesson planning. The handout and activities will help students learn about the history of ivermectin as a groundbreaking medical treatment, including its current and future use in eliminating river blindness and treating heartworm and other parasites in pets and livestock, understand its chemical structures, and describe its various impacts.

The activities are designed as a ready-to-go lesson, easily implemented by a teacher or substitute to supplement a unit of study. In chemistry, the activities relate to chemical structures and how they can be represented. In medicine, the activities relate to how small changes to a molecule can have a large impact on its effectiveness as a drug and the multiple areas of impact of ivermectin. In history, the activities highlight the people and organizations involved in developing and using ivermectin, and also the past, present, and future of the drug.

Download the complete lesson plan (PDF).

Resources include:

  • Teacher’s guide: Includes the handout, student activities and answer guide
  • Handout: “Discovery of Ivermectin: Preventing Blindness and Heartworm”
  • Student activities: Include the activities described below.

Student activities:

While these activities are thematically linked, each is designed to stand alone as an accompaniment for the handout. Teachers may choose activities based on curricular needs and time considerations.

  • History Exercise: Chronology of Ivermectin Using the handout, students describe major events before and after the discovery of ivermectin, including plans for the future. (15–20 min.)
  • Ivermectin: People and Places Students note that ivermectin’s history extends across the globe and involves a combination of individual researchers, companies and organizations, and the people receiving it as a treatment. (15–20 min.)
  • Ivermectin: Chemical Structures Students practice using bond line notation with structures related to ivermectin’s precursor. They also look for small changes to molecules that resulted in an even more successful drug. (10–15 min.)
  • Ivermectin Impacts Students describe the wide-ranging health benefits of ivermectin, along with its economic impacts. They also imagine the effect on their own activities and mental health if they were affected by river blindness. (10–15 min.)

cover of Landmark brochure about ivermectin
A boy leads a man impacted by river blindness, which can be prevented with ivermectin.. Cover from "Discovery of Ivermectin" booklet, produced by the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program of the American Chemical Society in 2016.
Cover photo by Olivier Asselin