A new drug has the potential to treat Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness, all of which are parasitic infections. The drug was discovered through the testing of 3 million compounds and the drug is now undergoing safety tests before it is ready for human trials. Here is some information about the three infections for those who do not know much about the illnesses:
- Sleeping sickness or trypanosomiasis is a parasitic infection spread by the tsetse fly and the infection can be chronic or acute depending on the form of the disease. The disease can also be transmitted through contact with certain bodily fluids such as blood and the parasite can cross the placenta to infect an unborn child. The infection is characterised by fever, headache, joint pain, behavioural changes, sensory disturbances and disturbance of the sleep cycle (hence the name sleeping sickness).
- Chagas disease is a parasitic infection that is also known as American trypanosomiasis. It can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, consumption of contaminated food and can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth. The disease occurs in two phases. The acute phase lasts for around 2 months and this is characterised by skin lesions, fever, enlarged lymph glans, muscle pain, breathing problems, swelling and chest pain in some cases. However, symptoms are usually mild. During the chronic phase, patients can suffer from cardiac disorders, digestive problems or neurological concerns. The infection can lead to sudden death or heart failure as a result of the damage.
- Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection that occurs in three forms. Visceral leishmaniasis is characterised by irregular fevers, weight loss, enlargement of the spleen and liver and anaemia. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the most common form and it typically results in skin lesions. Mucocutaneousleishmaniasis leads to partial or total destruction of mucous membranes of the nose, mouth and throat. The disease is transmitted by the bites of an infected female phlebotomine sandfly.
Researchers hope that this new drug will help cure the infections in a more practical and cost-effective way compared to the current treatments. Tests showed that the upgrade (codenamed GNF6702) could treat all three of the infections in mice.
This drug clearly sounds very promising but there is still a long way to go before it is determined to be suitable or unsuitable for human use. The result of the investigations seems successful but the issue is there hasn’t been many incentives for drug companies to research and produce such drugs as they only affect the developing world. This seems quite shocking and I find it very unfortunate that we live in a world where medicine is driven by money and drugs are made and sold by companies. What do you think about the realities of manufacturing drugs in a country that prioritises the cost over the benefit to the millions of people affected by these infections
I would like to know what you think about the new development and research and how you think this will affect the lives of people in developing countries if this drug proves to be a success.