Clinical trials are set for an inexpensive, oral drug to treat trypanosomiasis, a promising alternative to current remedies, which are typically not available in the African countries where the deadly disease is most common.Researchers are gearing up for a clinical trial of what they hope will be the first inexpensive, oral drug to treat trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness.Current drugs used for the disease require sophisticated diagnosis and drug infusions that are not typically available in the African regions most affected by trypanosomiasis, and the drugs themselves are frequently lethal.The new experimental drug, called SCYX-7158, is a compound containing the element boron that was developed by a Palo Alto company. It comes in a pill, appears to be safe in animal studies and can be given by rural caregivers.
Trypanosomiasis, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly. It affects at least 30,000 people each year in central Africa and is lethal without treatment. The disease has two stages. The first, or hemolymphatic, stage includes nonspecific symptoms such asheadaches and fevers and generally goes undiagnosed. The second, or neurologic, stage produces sleep cycle disruption, paralysis, progressive mental deterioration, coma and, ultimately, death.
The disease is considered endemic in 36 countries of central Africa, but two-thirds of all cases occur in the Democratic Republic of Congo