A clinical trial conducted by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), concluded that fexinidazole, a chemical compound that is abandoned since the early 80’s, can be an effective treatment for Chagas disease; illness that is the leading cause of death from parasites in the Americas.
The clinical trial phase II (with patients) was introduced under the XIII International Congress of Parasitology (ICOPA–2014) held in Mexico City. For this study fexinidazole was administrated in six daily doses, as monotherapy for 140 Bolivian patients in chronic phase of Chagas disease.
According to the researchers, the main objective of their work is “to determine if at least one of the doses is safer and more effective than placebo in eliminating the parasite that causes the infection.”
DNDi Program Director of Chagas disease, Isabela Ribeiro, stressed that “it has been obtained great benefits from the project, as it provided the technical knowledge needed to establish and promote this important clinical trial […] these collaboration efforts bring closer a new level that will benefit patients with Chagas disease.”
Nowadays there are only two treatments for Chagas disease: nifurtimox and benznidazole, which turn out to have “severe side effects” and are very difficult to access (only one percent of those affected have access to them).
The disease is endemic in 21 countries and claims the lives of about 12,000 people a year. It mainly affects people living precariously in poor housing conditions and with little or no access to health services, but despite this, the number of cases has risen in the United States, Australia, Japan and in several European countries.
Chagas disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and is mainly transmitted by a blood-sucking insect, called triatomine and commonly known as kissing bug. There are two phases of Chagas disease: it starts with the acute phase, with a duration ranging from patient to patient; then followed by a chronic phase that lasts a lifetime. In the second stage, up to 30 percent of patients developed cardiac damage and 10 percent result in serious damage to the digestive system.