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Sleeping sickness drug 'improved'

13 September 2011 11:51

Experts have developed a safer therapy to treat sleeping sickness

Experts have developed a safer therapy to treat sleeping sickness

Scottish experts have claimed a major breakthrough in the battle against sleeping sickness.

Scientists based at the University of Glasgow believe they have made a significant step forward in developing a safer cure for the condition, which is also known as Human African Trypanosomiasis.

The infection, transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly, affects thousands of people in African countries every year. It can be fatal if left untreated.

It is highly unsafe for global tourists to travel in the affected countries without a comprehensive medical travel insurance policy.

Doctors often prescribe an intravenous course of the arsenic-based drug melarsoprol if the disease crosses the blood-brain barrier and enters the central nervous system.

But the drug involved is highly toxic, which makes the therapy painful. It even kills 5% of patients receiving it and leaves many others permanently brain-damaged.

However, Glasgow scientists combined melarsoprol with another substance - cyclodextrins - which surrounds the drug allowing it to be administered orally. This means the melarsoprol is released in to the intestines where it can be dissolved and absorbed more slowly in the gut.