Scientists Progress in Tackling Tropical Diseases that Affect 20 Million

Disease Research

Although most people in the developed world have never heard of most neglected tropical diseases, these ailments actually affect more than 20 million people worldwide and lead to the death of over 50,000 people annually. Tropical diseases have previously had very little treatments and thus, no hope for some of the poorest communities in the world, but now we’ve come closer to finding some solutions.

Scientists now think they are one step closer to treating three such diseases: Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and human African trypanosomiasis (the latter is also known as sleeping sickness). These three tropical illnesses are caused by parasites with similar biology and genomes, which could mean that a single class of drugs might actually knock out all of them.

So far, the drugs have only been tested on mice, but they are already showing lots of promise.

Business Insider explains what went into the research, as well as discovering the compound called GNF6702:

  • “Starting out with leishmaniasis, they found that the drug worked better in mice than miltefosine, the treatment that’s currently used to treat leishmaniasis. They made it work in mice, which is a good first step.

  • After that, they pitted it against the main drug for Chagas disease, benznidazolewhich is being developed by KaloBios after then-CEO Martin Shkreli acquired the rights to the drug. They found that the new compound did just as well as benznidazole at making the mice parasite-free. [1]
  • For sleeping sickness, the new drug did a better job of clearing out the parasite in mice than the existing treatment.”

Researchers stated of their new development:

“There are only scarce resources for drug development in these diseases, and identification of a common target and chemical scaffold with potential across multiple indications provides new hope for improved treatment options for some of the world’s poorest people.”

The research was led by scientists at Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), though collaboration efforts occurred with colleagues at Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD), University of York, University of Washington, and the University of Glasgow.

Dr. Elmarie Myburgh of the University of York stated that finding a cure for sleeping sickness was most vital at the moment, as it can often be the most brutal and deadly. [2]


[1] Business Insider

[2] Science Daily