Scientists have found a possible new drug to treat Chagas disease, after successful trials in both mice and monkeys.
Chagas disease is caused by the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, and affects 6.5m people typically living in Central and Latin America. Sufferers with chronic infections develop heart disease 10–30 years after the initial illness, which can lead to heart failure.
There are currently two drugs available, but these have poor efficacy and many side effects.
Scientists at the University of Georgia, the University of Kansas and Anacor Pharmaceuticals, USA have now published their findings in Nature Microbiology.
They have discovered a drug named AN15368, which can affect the mRNA of the parasite - important for the creation of proteins – and this gradually kills the parasite itself.
The scientists treated 19 monkeys suffering from the parasite within a one month period.
Jadel Kratz, R&D manager for the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative in São Paulo, who was not involved in the study, told Science: “Testing the drug in non-human primates and tracking the animals for so long strengthens the findings.”
Now the next step is to test any toxicity and proceed to clinical trials with patients.