New drug prevents, treats tropical parasite diseaseUNMC researchers have developed a new strategy for treating one of the world’s most prolific parasitic infections, schistomiasis.
Parasitic worms cause schistosomiasis, a world-wide disease most common in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America. Schistosoma, also known as bilharzia, affects as many as 200 million worldwide, with 779 million living at risk of infection. The disease can lead to inflammation and scarring in the intestine, liver or bladder, but children with chronic infections often suffer from anemia, malnutrition and learning difficulties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best option available today is a “preventive chemotherapy” program that treats millions of school-age children with praziquantel, or PZQ for short. PZQ is the only drug available for treatment of this disease, but it is rapidly metabolized, rarely curative, and has little activity against juvenile schistosomula, the young developmental stage of the parasite (Utzinger et al., 2011; Olliaro et al., 2014; Bergquist et al., 2017).
Should serious PZQ drug resistance arise, there are no viable alternatives to this drug.
The innovation at UNMC is a series of aryl hydantoins that have superior pharmacokinetic profiles compared to PZQ. Unlike PZQ, these new compounds have high efficacy against both juvenile and adult forms of the schistosome parasite. They have potential applications for both prevention and treatment, and could perhaps even help eradicate schistosomiasis.
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