Thursday, February 23, 2012

Africa: Sleeping Sickness Drug Resistance Mechanism Identified

Douala — UK researchers have discovered how the drugs that are currently used to treat sleeping sickness work at the molecular level, potentially opening the way to tackling growing resistance to the drugs.

Sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis) is caused by Trypanosoma brucei parasites and is transmitted by the tsetse fly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease affected around 30,000 people in 2011, according to the WHO.

This is a dramatic drop since 1998 when close to 300,000 people were estimated to have the disease.

But the five drugs available (suramin, pentamidine, eflornithine, melasoprol and nifurtimox) are expensive, highly toxic, require prolonged treatment periods and are increasingly becoming ineffective because of parasite resistance.

Until recently, the scientists did not know how these drugs work or how resistance to them emerges. Read More