Expert: Academic Integration Addressing New Treatments for Chagas
June 11, 2012
About 20 percent of those infected can develop life-threatening illness that includes
enlarged hearts or intestines, and the drugs used today to treat the disease can take
months to work.
A recent editorial published in the Public Library of Science’s Neglected Tropical Diseases called Chagas disease, a parasite which kills about 20,000 people a year, “the AIDS
of the Americas.” The disease can be transferred to a child from its mother or by
blood transfusions. About 20 percent of those infected can develop life-threatening
illness that includes enlarged hearts or intestines, and the drugs used today to treat
the disease can take months to work.
A Texas Tech University expert studies ways to overcome diseases such as Chagas with
researchers from Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
He can discuss what progress has been made with finding the next generation of treatments
for the disease.
W. David Nes, Horn Professor and director of Texas Tech’s Center for Chemical Biology,
(806) 742-1673, or email@example.com
- North America is increasingly vulnerable to the spread of the disease from South America
as a result of vectorial (human and dogs) and transfusional (blood-related risk) transmission
events to diseases such as Chagas.
- Chagas disease, also known as South American trypanosomiasis, results from a parasite
harbored in blood-sucking reduviid insects, and is at the doorstep of the United States
where infected individuals can be stigmatized, like HIV/AIDS patients, thus, contributing
to challenges in health care access and treatment of infected individuals.
- The current drugs to treat Chagas disease, nifurtimox and benznidazole, were discovered
by empirical (blind) screening more than 40 years ago and registered and used in clinical
settings for many years without a clear understanding of their mechanism of action.
- The disease inflicts people in developing nations, and there was not much interest
to commercialize new drugs or develop a vaccine until recently.
- The difficulty in finding new medicines stems from few effective drugs to treat the
disease satisfactorily and in the increasing spread of infection globally.
- “Exciting new developments in the design of inhibitors of specific enzymes in crucial
metabolic pathways of the parasite are underway by talented investigators all over
the world. Our group is working to develop a new class of drug that is designed to
be a Trojan horse reagent providing a different way of killing parasites than the
conventional use of tight-binding inhibitors.”
- “In related studies to yeast that infect HIV/AIDS patients, we identified an important
sterol biosynthesis enzyme, and confirmed that the enzyme is synthesized in the Trypanosoma
cruzi parasite responsible for Chagas disease. This enzyme is notable since it is
absent from the human genome coding for enzymes of cholesterol biosynthesis, thus,
making this catalyst an excellent target for rational drug design.”
- “The next generation of therapeutic agents may ultimately lie in combination therapy
using one or more sterol biosynthesis inhibitors paired with commercially available
drugs or drugs that interfere with other aspects of parasite biochemistry.”
- “We have taken an integrated approach that addresses defining drug targets in the
parasites causing Chagas disease and sleeping sickness, which like HIV/AIDS, have
gained notoriety because of their link to immunosuppressive states and represents
one of the most wide-spread diseases of poverty.”