A new study suggests the use of Closantel, an old drug used to treat liver fluke in sheep and cattle, in fighting river blindness. River blindness has become a major cause of infection-related blindness in humans.
River blindness is caused by thread-like filarial nematode worms, Onchocerca volvulus, which are transmitted among humans through the bite of a black fly.
The nematodes then multiply and spread throughout the body. When they die, they cause a strong immune system response that can destroy surrounding tissue, including that of the eye.
Currently, the only drug available for mass treatment of river blindness is ivermectin, and it now appears that resistance to that drug is emerging.
This creates a critical need to identify new drug targets and agents that can effectively treat the disease.
The new research by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has shown that clostanel has the potential to inhibit the molting process of the parasite that causes the disease.
"We think this finding holds terrific potential for the treatment of river blindness, one of 13 recognized neglected tropical diseases," said Scripps Research postdoctoral fellow Christian Gloeckner, the first author of the study.
The study is scheduled for publication in an advance, online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) during the week of February 8, 2010.