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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid