A compound that can kill the parasites responsible for three diseases - Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and sleeping sickness- has been identified. These three diseases affect millions of people in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Currently, there are only effective treatments available.
The new study funded by Wellcome Trust and US National Institute of Health suggests that a single class of drugs could be effective to treat all the three diseases. Researchers at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) have identified the potential chemical. The chemical was found to cure all the three diseases in mice. Laboratory test showed that the chemical does not harm human cells, providing a strong starting point for drug development.
‘Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness are the three diseases caused by parasites. The compound called GNF6702 is a single class of drug to treat all the three diseases.’
All the three diseases have different symptoms, but all are caused by single-celled parasites called 'kinetoplastids' which share similar biology and genetics. So the researchers were looking for a single chemical that could destroy all the three.
The researchers tested over 3 million different chemicals and identified a compound called GNF6702. The compound was found to be effective against the parasites but did not damage human cells. The starting compound was refined to make it potent before testing on mice.
Frantisek Supek, lead author of the study said, "We found that these parasites harbor a common weakness. We hope to exploit this weakness to discover and develop a single class of drugs for all three diseases."
Dr Stephen Caddick, Director of Innovation at Wellcome, said, "These three diseases lead to more than 50,000 deaths annually, yet they receive relatively little funding for research and drug development. We hope that our early stage support for this research will provide a basis for the development of new treatments that could reduce suffering for millions of people in the poorest regions of the world."
The currently available treatments for the three diseases are expensive. They are not highly effective and often have side effects. But, the newly identified chemical, GNF6702 does not have any adverse effects in mice. The researchers are testing the chemical for toxicity before starting with the clinical trials.