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Chagas drug works

12th May 2008

Scientists testing the main drug treatment for Chagas disease say it is effective at completely eradicating the disease-causing parasite from chronically infected mice.

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The study is the first evidence that the drug - benznidazole - is so effective, compared with current therapies which are limited in their use because of fears over severe side effects and doubts about whether or not they truly work.

Some drug treatments are thought to be effective in less than 50% of patients. The study also suggests a new way of assessing the efficacy of drugs for the disease.

Researchers found that benznidazole - the principle drug used to treat Chagas disease - can completely clear Trypanosoma cruzi parasites in mice.

Lead author Rick Tarleton of the US-based University of Georgia said he hoped that the proof of efficacy reported in the study would prompt wider use of the available drugs to treat chronically infected individuals.

Researchers also found as they monitored the population of CD8 T cells in the blood of the mice that successful treatment of the parasite was associated with the emergence of a stable population of T cruzi-specific T cells.

These cells were crucial to the prevention of re-infection, they said, adding that monitoring CD8 T cells could be a useful way to evaluate the effectiveness of future drugs to treat Chagas disease, which affects 16-18 million people throughout Latin America.

Current Chagas drug development lacks such a marker. If a treatment works, T cells specific to T cruzi would be detected, they conclude in the journal Nature Medicine.

Tarleton said the team's work had presented an experimental model and a 'gold standard' treatment [benznidazole] against which to compare other new drugs.

Drugs which did not work as well as benznidazole probably should not be pursued in human trials, he added.

 

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Article Information

Title: Chagas drug works
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 6726
Date Added: 12th May 2008

Sources

SciDev.Net

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