A recurring theme of the NTD sessions at this year’s ECCMID conference was the relationship between NTDs, HIV and STDs. Figures for each seem to overlap, as do some of the physical signs.
Each complements the other’s existence. For example, an NTD’s (such as schistosomiasis) symptoms make target areas (in this case epithelium) vulnerable and as a result ease the path of sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and HIV agents into the body. And with that, the person becomes coinfected by more than one dangerous illness.
Fexinidazole has been used for over 30 years and studies are being conducted to ascertain its effect on sleeping sickness. The parasites that cause sleeping sickness and VL are closely related, so researchers at the University of Dundee decided to see whether the drug could also work against VL too.
VL is an infectious disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted by the bite of an infected sandfly. After malaria, it is the biggest killer in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Estimates put 50,000 killed every year but WHO say this is a huge underestimate as many cases are never recorded. 1.5-2 million new cases occur annually even though only around 600,000 are declared, the WHO have said.
If left untreated, VL can have a fatality rate as high as 100% within two years. Safer and more effective oral drugs are required to treat this parasitic disease as current drug treatments are expensive, lead to harmful side effects and mostly given by injection, which is unsuitable in poor rural areas where VL strikes.