A promising new start by an old drug towards treating Leishmaniasis

A Drug (#Drug), Fexinidazole, which was originally developed decades ago, finally reaches the testing phase for treating Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT). Apparently HAT and Leishmaniasis are caused by closely related parasites, therefore researchers have decided to analyze whether Fexinidazole can also work against Leishmaniasis.

Their results, published in ‘Science Translational Medicine’, confirmed that treating mice with fexinidazole reduced the number of leishmaniasis parasites by more than 98 per cent, comparable to current treatments for the disease. However, current treatments have various disadvantages, including cost and the rapid development of drug resistance.

Some current treatments can only be given by injection, which is not practical in poor rural areas where people are at most risk of leishmaniasis, and the only drug that can be given orally cannot be used in women of childbearing age because of the risk of birth defects.

The next steps for assessing fexinidazole as a treatment for leishmaniasis will be to test it in other animal models and to see how effectively it works against various strains of the parasite that infect people. If the results of those studies are favourable, development of the drug as a new oral treatment for leishmaniasis will be made faster and cheaper because of the ongoing HAT trials.

Kevin Tan, Scientific Director, Biolynx Technologies, & Assistant Professor at Laboratory of molecular and cellular Parasitology, Department of Microbiology, National University of Singapore, Singapore, would be presenting at Drug Discovery World Asia 2012 this March on "Accelerating drug discovery with fluroscent tagged antimalarials".

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