A new breakthrough in the treatment of deadly parasitic diseases has offered hope for millions of people in developing countries who are most at risk of infection. Following successful animal studies, a single cure has shown to treat Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness, conditions which are considered ‘neglected’ in terms of research and treatment.
Step forward for helping the world’s poorest countries
The study, published in Nature, looked at tackling the three diseases, which are all caused by similar parasites. The three diseases combined are responsible for 50,000 deaths each year and infect around 20 million people. Whilst there are existing treatments available, they have a high price tag and in most cases need to be given via a drip, which doesn’t offer the most effective treatment for people in developing countries. This new treatment can be delivered quicker and more effectively, helping to treat diseases which haven’t had much investment in the past.
About the parasitic diseases
The three diseases targeted by this treatment are caused by the same group of parasites, which has allowed researchers to develop a multi-purpose treatment designed to target:
- Chagas disease (also known as America trypanosomiasis) is a disease which causes the heart and digestive system to become enlarged, which can then lead to complications and death. It is most common in Latin America, but also affects other continents too.
- Leishmaniasis is a disease which is caused by the bite of sandflies and can affect the body in different ways depending on the location of the bite. Some symptoms include anaemia, fever as well as affecting the lining of the nose, mouth and throat, which can become destroyed and affects people across South America, Asia and Africa.
- Sleeping Sickness (Human African trypanosomiasis) is caused by tsetse fly bites. Its name comes as a result of the coma which can happen if the parasite penetrates the brain and typically occurs in the sub-Sahara regions of Africa.
The fact that the treatment could be used to treat all three of the diseases would reduce costs as well as have a widespread reach. Following successful trials in mice, it is hoped that researchers can move on to making the drug safe for human trials.
Reminder to get your vaccinations before you travel
Whilst your summer holiday is unlikely to see you venturing into the areas affected by these diseases, it’s important that you take the right precautions and get vaccinated against certain diseases – particularly for long-haul destinations. Some vaccines are available on the NHS, but there are others that you may need to pay for. You should also check that you are up to date on your other vaccinations, particularly for tetanus and TB (tuberculosis).
For more information about vaccinations, the NHS Choices page has some great advice, whilst fitfortravel is a dedicated website for travelling abroad, detailing the risks, necessary vaccinations as well as their timescales before you travel. Take a look and make sure you’re protected before you venture on your travels.