Trypanosomiasis / Sleeping sickness - Treatment


Treatment poses a huge challenge after the disease has progressed into the central nervous system. The drug Pentamidine is efficacious only in the initial stages of infection. The drug renders itself useless during the final stages of the disease. Certain strains of the disease have grown resistant to the drug and therefore do not respond to the drug.

The drug Suramin (Antrypol) is not without side effects. It is normally administered as an intravenous shot. The drug Trybizine has shown promise for East African sleeping sickness during the clinical testing phase.

Melarsoprol has been in use to treat final-stage disease. This arsenical drug can cause serious and life threatening side-effects.

If treatment is effectively administered during the acute infection stage, the prognosis might be positive. The drugs most commonly employed are azole or nitro derivatives such as benznidazole or nifurtimox. Off late, there have been reports of increased resistance to these drugs. The disease proves impossible to root out in the chronic stage.


Newer Drugs

A new drug, eflornithine (difluoromethylornithine or DFMO), originally developed as an anticancer agent, has shown promising results against the gambiense form and new treatment regimes have been discovered that should halve the cost of treatment.

Scientists have managed to crack the genetic character of the parasite; this has led to the identification of many proteins which could help in the creation of drugs necessary to combat the parasite. Generating a vaccine for this disease has been extremely difficult over the years. This is because Typanosoma burcei consists of over 800 genes which manufacture proteins that constantly mix and match with the disease to evade immune system detection.