Animal testing and studies show that the drug cures Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness. The drug is about to enter the stage of human trials.
Many have dubbed this new drug as the “new hope” that attacks the infectious parasites that kill millions of people in the poor countries. In order to conceive this miraculous drug, researchers tested around three million compounds made by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, to find those that could kill multiple parasites in the laboratory, reports journal Nature.
Research suggests that all the three infections are caused by a common parasite; therefore, one similar component in the therapy might kill all three parasites.
Sleeping sickness is caused by the Trypanosoma brucei parasite, which is spread by the bite of the tsetse fly. The disease is officially known as Human African trypanosomiasis, but takes its more common name from the coma that results when the parasite penetrates the brain. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Chagas disease - or America trypanosomiasis - is caused by the Trypansosoma cruzi parasite. It can cause the heart and digestive system to become enlarged, which can be deadly. The "kissing" or "assassin" bug spreads the parasite. Chagas mostly affects people in Latin America, but has now spread to other continents.
Leishmaniasis is caused by infection with Leishmania parasites and is spread by the bite of sandflies. It causes a wide range of symptoms depending on which part of the body is infected, ranging from anaemia and fever to the total destruction of the lining of the nose, mouth and throat. It is found in the Americas, Africa and Asia.
These thee parasites infect around 20 million people 50,000 die annually. The cure to these drugs is costly in poorer countries. Some are even toxic to a point where they need to be given via an intravenous drip, making them unfeasible for the poor.
The drug works by attacking the component that recycles waste proteins in the parasite called proteasomes. More importantly, the chemical does not do the same to any mammalian cells.