News / Health

Scientists Try to Develop Safer Sleeping Sickness Cure

Variation on current drug shows promise in lab tests

Researchers say they've created a safer version of a drug used to treat sleeping sickness.
Researchers say they've created a safer version of a drug used to treat sleeping sickness.

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

Researchers say they've developed a safer way to treat sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease that is fatal if not treated.

Sleeping sickness, or trypanosomiasis, is a chronic medical problem in 36 countries of sub-Saharan Africa and treatment for one variety is highly toxic.

Sleeping sickness is caused by two related parasites, producing two varieties of the disease. The form prevalent in West Africa is more common, but the East African variety is more aggressive, and the patient can die within weeks or months of infection.

The parasite first invades the blood and lymph systems, but then crosses into the nervous system, causing symptoms like confusion, behavior change, and daytime sleepiness. Brain infection leads to inflammation and death.

For patients with the East African form of the disease, researcher Peter Kennedy says the only available treatment is itself a serious health risk.

"The problem is, the drugs for the brain disease are very, very toxic," he says. "So, untreated, everyone dies. But treated with this drug, five percent of patients die. This is an appalling figure, which just has to be improved."

Kennedy, an immunologist at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, is a leading expert on sleeping sickness. He explains that the drug, called melarsoprol, has to be injected intravenously, repeatedly, and at increasing concentrations.

So Kennedy and his colleagues combined melarsoprol with another chemical, cyclodextrin. The resulting formula doesn't have to be injected.

"What we find is that it can be given orally. And because of this, it can be absorbed from the gut more slowly. And we believe - although we don't know for sure - that one of the main reasons why it's less toxic is that there isn't this sudden rush of drug into the body, and thereby producing less toxic effects."

In testing on laboratory mice, Kennedy says the combination retained the effectiveness of melarsoprol, without the frequently fatal side effects.

But will it work the same way in humans? Sometimes, new drugs work fine in animal tests, but not with people. Kennedy says, "this is different. This is already a drug that is given to humans. What we've done is we've used the mouse model to change the molecular configuration of the drug so the drug becomes less toxic and effective orally."

Plans are already underway to take this new combination medicine to human trials, starting as soon as the beginning of 2013. If it all works out, he says the melarsoprol-cyclodextrin combination could lower the cost of treatment by reducing hospital stays.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid