News / Health

Breakthrough Energizes Hunt for Sleeping Sickness Cure

The Tsetse fly causes Sleeping Sickness
The Tsetse fly causes Sleeping Sickness

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

Scientists in Scotland say they may have found a new treatment for sleeping sickness, which could be ready for clinical trial within 18 months. The disease is fatal and infects around 60,000 people in Africa annually.

Sleeping sickness is spread by a parasite that infects the central nervous system and, if left untreated, moves to the spinal column and brain, resulting in mental confusion and eventual death.


Paul Wyatt led the study at the Drug Discovery for Tropical Diseases program at the University of Dundee.  He says their research has identified an "Achilles' heel" of the parasite - an enzyme that is needed for the parasite's survival.


"We've identified a weakness in the parasite that can be exploited with drugs. And the other  breakthrough we've made is we've actually discovered some molecules which are on the way to being potential drugs for the disease as well," he said.

The research was published in the latest edition of the Britain-based scientific journal Nature.

"We have a number of hurdles still ahead," said Wyatt. "We have to make sure that the compound will be sufficiently efficacious to be used in the clinical setting, it has to be safe, and again we can make the drug sufficiently cheaply that it will be appropriate for the use in the clinical setting."

There are already two drugs available to fight sleeping sickness, but they are both problematic. One is an arsenic-based drug that kills five percent of users. The other, eflornithine, is expensive, requires prolonged hospital treatment and is only partially effective.

Francois Chappuis is a specialist in Neglected Tropical Diseases with the international health organization Doctors Without Borders.

He says an inexpensive and easy-to-use medicine for sleeping sickness is badly needed. "In areas where the sleeping sickness is still very prevalent such as remote areas of some central African  countries, which are by the way very unstable areas, it will be also crucial to have simpler treatment and obviously oral treatment would be the best," he said.

Lesion on shoulder, which is symptomatic of Sleeping Sickness
Lesion on shoulder, which is symptomatic of Sleeping Sickness

Sleeping sickness is one of a group of diseases known as "neglected tropical diseases." According to the World Health Organization, one sixth of the world's population suffers from one or more of the neglected diseases.

Chappuis says those diseases have a low profile and scarce financial investment, compared to  HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. However, the neglected diseases affect most severely those who are poor and disadvantaged.

"These patients, they live in very remote areas. And you know we should not talk about neglected disease, but we should talk about neglected populations. These populations, they have no political voice - neither at national or international levels," He added.

The World Health Organization estimates that between 50,000 and 70,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with sleeping sickness, which is spread by the tsetse fly. The organization says 60 million people are at risk of infection.


You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid