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22 May 2012 08:36
The research was carried out in laboratories in California
Researchers have suggested that a drug commonly used to combat arthritis may also be an effective weapon against parasitic organisms.
Marketed as Ridaura, auranofin reduces the inflammation which rheumatoid arthritis causes.
But studies suggest auranofin could also be used to treat amoebic dysentery and maybe Giardia - diseases which often affect people in developing nations.
The two infections cause severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps - symptoms which can be suffered by those spending long periods of time in such far-flung destinations.
Those travelling to developing countries should ensure they have a
medical travel insurance policy in place before they arrive to offer cover for any essential treatment.
More than 70,000 people die each year due to the amoebic dysentery organism Entamoeba histolytica, and most of the deaths occur in developing countries.
But American scientists found that auranofin targets a protective enzyme the amoeba needs if it is to survive.
Hamsters and mice were infected and it was found the drug caused a decline in the number of parasites as well as reducing inflammation.
Research showed auranofin was 10 times more effective than the antibiotic metronidazole, which is used to treat dysentery at the moment.
"This new use of an old drug represents a promising therapy for a major health threat," said lead researcher Professor Sharon Reed, from the University of California at San Diego.
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