Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nasty Nematodes Beware!

Can you imagine never seeing the sun rise? How about never seeing the smile on your child’s face? Thanks to a new drug called Moxidectin, some 100 million people across the African continent will be saved from such a dire reality. These individuals currently suffer from river blindness, a debilitating disease caused by the worm Onchocerca volvulus. Transmitted by the bite of the Black Fly, which breeds in fast-flowing rivers, these nasty parasites spread rapidly and can survive for up to fifteen years in the human body.

At present, the drug ivormectin is used to control river blindness endemic in African countries. Unfortunately, the drug only kills the worm larvae, which means that annual treatments are required for anywhere from 11-14 years to prevent further reproduction and transmission. On Wednesday, however, the UN health agency announced the launch of a clinical trial of Moxidectin in Ghana, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is believed this drug will kill not only the worm larvae, but also the adult worms, halting the disease cycle within six annual rounds of treatment.

Some 1,500 individuals are currently enrolled in the clinical trial, which will last approximately 2.5 years.