December 9, 2011
Fabiana Frayssinet – IPS, 12/08/2011
The vinchuca bug, which transmits Chagas disease, often lives in cracks in mud walls. Credit:Paul Lowry/CC BY 2.0
A new paediatric formulation developed in Brazil holds out hope for a cure for over 90 percent of newborn babies infected with Chagas disease, a parasitic infection endemic in 21 Latin American countries, where it kills more people every year than malaria.
The new paediatric dosage form of benznidazole, which has just been approved for registration by Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), was developed by the Pernambuco State Pharmaceutical Laboratory (LAFEPE) with the support of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).
“Until recently, children’s treatment had to be improvised rather haphazardly by dividing up adult-sized pills” available only in 100 milligram tablets, Dr Isabela Ribeiro, head of DNDi’s Chagas Clinical Programme and manager of the paediatric formulation of benznidazole, told IPS.
October 31, 2011
During the final session of FAPESP Week, held October 24-26 in Washington, DC, Sergio Schenkman, Full Professor in the Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology Department of the (Unifesp), spoke about the current scenario confronting tropical research, with emphasis on Chagas disease.
“These are known as the neglected tropical diseases and that is due to the absence of direct economic interest. Pharmaceutical companies are not interested and few people end up working with these diseases. But Trypanosoma, the parasite that causes Chagas disease, is not only in South America, but also in Africa, Europe, Asia and even in the United States. In other words, these diseases are not a problem in just the poorest countries, but also in the richest.”
Schenkman is coordinator of the Thematic Project “Cell organization in the differentiation and in the cell cycle of Trypanosoma” funded by FAPESP.
October 31, 2011
Mammalian cell interaction with the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, the cause of Chagas disease, was the presentation topic of Walter Colli, Professor of Biochemistry at the Universidade de São Paulo. Work by the researcher is focused on the agent cell membrane, and it seeks to identify molecules that may be capable of promoting the host-parasite relationship. The panel took place during the symposium FAPESP Week in Washington, DC, which ended October 26th.
The project expanded upon the understanding of the parasite cell surface, which is coated with glycoproteins responsible for adhesion of the Trypanosoma to the blood cells. The challenge now is to understand how the parasite penetrates and survives in red blood cells of the host. The glycoprotein is “anchored” on the surface of the parasite and has little time to adhere to the blood cells since it only lives for about 3.5 hours. A gene sequence known as FLY contributed to the production of glycoprotein that promotes the adhesion. The next step is to identify a way to inactivate the FLY sequence to prevent the parasite from penetrating the human blood cell.
Wondwossen Gebreyes from Ohio State University presented an initiative that attempts to integrate food safety, veterinary zoonosis of interest to public health and biotechnology with the study of animal diseases that may be transmitted to humans. The model, baptized as the One Health Initiative uses zoonoses because they represent 75% of emerging infections.
October 7, 2011
The Guardian, 10/07/2011
Ayoreo children in the Chaco region of north-west Paraguay. Photograph: Jorge Adorno/Reuters
Unprecedented efforts are being made to tackle some of the world’s neglected tropical diseases. On Wednesday I listened to former president Jimmy Carter talking about the efforts his centre has been making over the years to eradicate guinea worm disease – now just 1,000 cases a year away from history.
But today there is more worrying news, from the volunteer doctors of Médecins Sans Frontières. They have been putting in tremendous efforts to help those afflicted by neglected tropical diseases, who are invariably the poorest people on the planet.
Thousands of people who could have been treated for Chagas disease are likely to have to go without the only drug that can help them. Benznidazole is in short supply – regrettably, because the Brazilian government has failed to ensure that sufficient stocks of the chemical it contains are produced. Around 10 million people are infected with the insect-borne disease, mostly in Latin America. It causes debilitating symptoms and in the chronic stages the parasites hide mainly in the heart and digestive muscle, which can lead to death from heart failure.