- A new consortium has been formed to boost drug development for the treatment of two deadly diseases, the African sleeping sickness and Leishmaniasis, which affect millions of people worldwide.
A total budget of nearly 3.6 million euros has been allocated over the next four years, to develop effective drugs for these diseases, according to the project instigators.
The consortium will include amongst others, IOTA Pharmaceuticals, Mercachem, Nycomed, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, the Royal Tropical Institute, the University of Bern, the VU University Amsterdam and TI Pharma.
Rob Leurs, the project's principal investigator, comments: "African sleeping sickness and Leishmaniasis are diseases caused by parasites. Both diseases are prominent on the World Health Organization's list of neglected tropical diseases for which no effective medication is available."
He said the new consortium will target parasite-specific phosphodiesterase to develop and screen drug candidates for clinical evaluation and the treatment of both diseases.
"This new project combines the knowledge and experience of leading European laboratories and promises to make a major contribution to the treatment of neglected tropical diseases," he said.
Recent WHO estimates indicate that approximately 60 million people are at risk of contracting the African sleeping sickness (also called human African trypanosomiasis) with an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 new cases occurring each year. The disease appears in 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is endemic in south-east Uganda and western Kenya, killing more than 40,000 Africans each year.
The African sleeping sickness parasite, most commonly Trypanosoma brucei, is transmitted to humans by tsetse fly bites.
Leishmaniasis, on the other hand, is found in many tropical and sub-tropical countries, in settings as diverse as the rainforests in Central and South America to deserts in Asia and the Middle East. 350 million people are at risk of developing the disease, with as many as 12 million people worldwide being infected, and 1.5-2 million new cases occurring each year. Leishmaniasis presents in cutaneous, visceral and mucosal forms, with the visceral form of the disease alone having an estimated incidence of 500,000 new cases each year, and causing 60,000 deaths. Many different Leishmania species are implicated in the disease, which is transmitted by sand flies.
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