Category Archives: Tropical Medicine

Nanoparticles useful in treating venomous snakebites

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In the future, venomous snakebites could be treated using nanoparticles to bind the venom toxins and prevent them from spreading around the body.

Researchers have identified a new way of treating snake bites, using nanoparticles to bind to venom toxins, preventing the spread of the venom through the body.

Venomous snakebites cause over 100,000 deaths annually, and leave over 400,000 individuals with permanent trauma each year. Snakebites affect 2.5 million people annually.

The standard treatment for snakebites is the intravenous administration of IgG immune molecules that recognize venoms. However, such antivenom therapies must be administered quickly–and by trained healthcare workers– to be effective and are highly specific to particular venoms. There is an ongoing need for a snakebite treatment which can be used in a rural setting and works against the bites of diverse venomous snakes.

In the new work, Dr Kenneth Shea, of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues engineered nanoparticles that bind to and sequester an array of phospholipases A2 (PLA2)and three-finger toxin (3FTX) molecules found in Elapidae snake venoms. The Elapidae family is a large family of venomous snakes that includes cobras, kraits, tiger snakes, sea snakes, coral snakes and mambas, among other species. The researchers tested the ability of the nanoparticles to block Naja nigricollis (black-necked spitting cobra) venom in mice that received varying doses of the nanoparticles, injected into the skin. Envenomings by this snake in sub-Saharan Africa inflict serious cutaneous necrosis that may leave permanent tissue damage in the victims.

In experiments on isolated cells, the nanoparticles were found to sequester a wide range of Elapidae PLA and 3FTX venoms. Moreover, with collaborator Dr José María Gutiérrez from the Instituto Clodomiro Picado (Universidad de Costa Rica), experiments with mice demonstrated that injections of the nanoparticles at the site of venom injection significantly mitigated the typical necrotic effects–including blistering and ulcers– of the spitting cobra venom. The nanoparticles administered to mice that had not received venom did not have an effect on skin and did not induce systemic toxicity.

“The stable, low-cost nanoparticles have the potential to be administered subcutaneously immediately after the bite at the site of envenoming by this spitting cobra to halt or reduce the extent of local damage and mitigate the systemic distribution of toxins post-envenoming,” the researchers say.

The researchers reported their findings in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

SOURCE: www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/news/79924

Experimental vaccine to be used against Ebola outbreak in the DRC

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campaign to vaccinate people at risk of developing Ebola in the latest outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could begin by the end of this week, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said Sunday.

Tedros said the government of the DRC has formally asked to use an experimental vaccine being developed by Merck. The WHO has a stockpile of 4,300 doses of the vaccine in Geneva; the company also has 300,000 doses of the vaccine stockpiled in the United States. Merck has given its permission for the vaccine to be used in this outbreak.

“Everything is ready for the vaccine. They want it,”  Tedros, who goes by his first name, told STAT in an interview from Kinshasa.

The WHO and its partners are responding quickly, concerned that this outbreak has the potential to spread because of its location. The epicenter, a town called Bikoro, is difficult to reach by vehicle because of poor roads between it and the regional capital, Mbandaka. Tedros and his party traveled there by helicopter.

But the town is a port, on Lake Tumba. And it feeds into the Congo and Ubangi rivers — major waterways that connect to several large centers.

To the south is the DRC capital, Kinshasa (population 11.5 million), as well as Brazzaville (population 1.9 million), the capital of the neighboring Republic of the Congo. To the north is Bangui (population 800,000), the capital of the Central African Republic. Mbandaka, with a population of about 1 million people, is also reachable from Bikoro by water.

The World Food Program has established an air bridge, a costly undertaking but one that is essential for moving people and materiel into Bikoro.

The equipment needed to keep the vaccine at subzero temperatures — the so-called cold chain — was arriving in the DRC on Sunday and would be set up in the next couple of days, he said. By Wednesday or Thursday, the vaccines in Geneva will be sent to the DRC, said Tedros. After that, vaccination of health care workers and people who have been in contact with cases will begin.

“That’s our plan. And so far things are going as planned,” he said, expressing hope that the quick response will speed containment of the outbreak. “We have better weapons this time.”

The outbreak, which is believed to have started at least five weeks ago, was officially declared on May 8 after the DRC health ministry confirmed two positive tests from among a number of suspected Ebola cases in Bikoro and a village called Ikoko-Impenge, about 40 miles away.

The WHO said on Saturday the case estimate is up to 39 — two confirmed, 20 probable cases, and 17 suspected. At least 18 of those people have died. Three health care workers are among the cases and one has died.

The plan is to employ a ring vaccination approach, vaccinating anyone who has been in contact with a case to prevent continuing spread of the virus. Contact tracing efforts are already underway. To date, 382 contacts have been identified, Tedros said.

SOURCE: www.statnews.com

Albendazole-antibiotic combination shortens therapy for parasitic diseases

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Researchers have found a way of reducing the treatment required for lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis from several weeks to seven days.

Researchers have found a way of significantly reducing the treatment required for lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis from several weeks to seven days.

By targeting Wolbachia, a bacterial symbiont that the filarial parasites need to live, the team has discovered a drug synergy that enables effective treatment over a shorter time.

Researchers provide proof-of-concept of a radical improvement to the targeting of Wolbachia via a drug synergy between the anthelmintic drug albendazole and antibiotics.

As part of the A*WOL programme, we have screened all registered drugs for anti-Wolbachia activity, which has allowed us to look at repurposing existing and registered drugs against these debilitating conditions.

The combination of an antibiotic and the anti-worm drug albendazole provided the greatest surprise when they acted synergistically to reduce the treatment time from weeks to days, opening up the opportunity to scale-up this approach at the community level” said Professor Mark Taylor from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

The team believe that their work is of immediate public health importance because the drugs that have been used, rifampicin and albendazole, are already registered. “These drugs can be tested in infected people as soon as possible,” continued Prof Taylor.

Dr Joe Turner, LSTM first author on the paper, added, “The discovery of drug synergy between a common anthelmintic and different classes of antibiotics is also exciting because even more, potent synergism may be evident when we combine with our next generation, ‘designer’ anti-Wolbachia drugs currently in development as part of the A*WOL programme. Potentially, we may be in a position to reduce curative treatment time frames down to five days or less for filariasis, with better acceptability and reduced costs for patients and local health systems”

What is Lymphatic filariasis?

Lymphatic filariasis (LF), which can cause elephantiasis or hydrocele, swelling of the limbs or scrotum and onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness affect millions of people in some of the world’s poorest communities. Both are caused by filarial parasites for which the bacterial symbiont Wolbachia is essential for development.

Filarial Neglected Tropical Diseases are prioritised for elimination, in line with fulfilment of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. A consensus of expert opinion, including the WHO, and major donors, USAID and UK DFID, considers that successful implementation of a macrofilaricidal or permanent sterilising drug would greatly accelerate the endgame elimination of lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis.

Traditional treatment for these conditions require repetitive, long-term mass drug administrations, and although targeting the symbiont with doxycycline has proved clinically effective, it is programmatically challenging due to the long treatment time and exclusion of pregnant women and children.

SOURCE: www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/news/68466