One Drug is 'New Hope' for Three Killer Infections


Drug with Potential of Treating Three Fatal/Neglected Infections

Animal studies show that a signal drug has the potential to treat three fatal and neglected infections namely, sleeping sickness, chagas disease and leishmaniasis. These are infections caused by parasites that affect a great deal of people in the pitiable parts of the world and this study could be portrayed as a new hope for handling these infections. The findings were made by the analysis of three million compounds as reported in a journal called Nature. They are now running safety tests for the drug before conducting human trials.

Although, the three infections are all caused by parasites, the parasites caused these diseases are different. Scientist working on the tests say that it could be a possibility that one drug could be useful against all the three.

Causes, carries and casualties

  • Chagas disease is affected by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, and is commonly called American trypanosomiasis. The tsetse fly is a vector for the parasitic infection and is caused when this fly bites a human being. It causes enlargement of the digestive system and the heart which could be fatal. Mostly, the people in Latin America are affected by Chagas, but lately, this disease has now spread to various other countries. 
  • Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani. Abite from a sand-fly carrying this parasite can cause you this disease. There are three type of this form namely, cutaneous, mucocutaneous or visceral. There could be many symptoms caused depending on the area of the body which has been infected. Symptoms noticed are anaemia, fever, disruption of the mucosal lining of the mouth, throat and nose. People mostly belonging to Africa, Asia and America are affected by this disease. 
  • Sleeping sickness also commonly known as Human African trypanosomiasis. But it takes more than a common name from the coma caused to the host because of the parasite entering the brain. It is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, and the vector is a tsetse fly. This ‘kissing’ or assassin bug carries the parasite and people mostly living in sub-Saharan area of Africa.

Parasites Affecting Millions of People

Together, these parasites affect around 20 million people, and an approximate of 50,000 die each year, as stated by the team of researchers. Despite the fact that there are medications available to cure the infections, the costs are exorbitant and toxic, and these need to be administered intravenously via drips, making it unfeasible in underprivileged areas.

Scientists have tried and tested three million compounds to the ones that could exterminate several parasites in the lab, prepared by Novartis, a pharmaceutical company. One of these was then used as the base and that was then used as a ground for numerous modifications to make the actual one 20 times more effective.

They found that the upgrade which they coded as GNF6702 could cure Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania donovani diseases found in mice. One of the established scientists at the University of York, Dr Elmarie Myburgh, said to the BBC News website that, ‘the speciality of this is the fact that is directing to all the three parasites; it has been conducted the first time thus making it special.’ To Myburgh it is more than a big deal, because he wants to make a difference, being in his field he wants to create a cure and he along with his team are working day and night so to get the cure to patients.

Myburgh also stated that, ‘there is very less encouragement to spend such a huge amount of money for curing these diseases as it is the poor who are affected but in large numbers.’ Additional tweaks to the compound are being processed as the research team believes it is always best to ensure safety before conducting human trials.

Recycling by fluke

The drug helps by attacking the proteasomes of the parasite and the structure recycles the protein that are of waste in the parasite. Remarkably, the chemical does not distress similar processes in cells of mammals. From the Genomic Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, Richard Glynne, said that the proteasome being attacked was not by design but was more by fluke.

It had been speculated that the proteasome was identical across all species to cultivate a drug that would not be lethal to the patient. On the other hand, he mentioned that there may eventually need to be three separate medicines for the three diseases respectively, ‘Having a single drug for all the parasitic infection could turn out to be not a good strategy.

The biology of the infections is diverse. For instance, in sleeping sickness, the target area of the parasite is the brain, therefore a drug is needed that can get into the brain, so there are refinements that may be essential.’ The Wellcome Trust research charity helped fund this study. It’s director of innovation. Dr Stephen Caddick told BBC News website that, ‘the parasites are horrid, highly ubiquitous and affect the people who live in parts of the world that are struck by poverty. More progress needs to be made.

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