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Trends Parasitol. 2005 Nov;21(11):508-12. Epub 2005 Sep 8.

Chemotherapy of trypanosomiases and leishmaniasis.

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  • 1Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, 1 Place Saint-Gervais, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland. scroft@dndi.org


New formulations, therapeutic switching of the established drugs amphotericin B and paromomycin, and the serendipitous discovery of miltefosine have markedly improved leishmaniasis chemotherapy in the past 21 years. The situation for the two trypanosomiases has been less encouraging. Apart from the introduction of eflornithine for the treatment of late-stage human African trypanosomiasis, with its serious limitations in terms of cost and difficulty of administration, no new drugs have been incorporated into the chemotherapeutic arsenal in the past 25 years, despite important advances in knowledge of the biology of the etiological agents and the pathophysiology of these diseases. In the case of Chagas disease, several classes of compound that target the validated biochemical pathways of the parasite (e.g. inhibitors of sterol biosynthesis and cysteine proteases) are in the pipeline. With the availability of complete genome sequences for all three pathogens, and methods for rapid validation of targets, it is hoped that much-needed amelioration will occur soon. Financial constraints continue to represent a major hurdle to drug development. However, the appearance of not-for-profit product-development partnerships offers a new paradigm for bringing new drugs to patients.

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