Drug Treatment of Tropical Parasitic Infections: Recent Achievements and Developments

Stephenson, I.; Wiselka, M.
November 2000
Drugs;Nov2000, Vol. 60 Issue 5, p985
Academic Journal
Drug development offers potential solutions to a number of tropical health diseases, although the expense of pharmaceutical research and lack of return on investment has limited the production of new agents. The greatest successes have been through the development of single dose therapy and mass treatment control programmes for a number of diseases. We review some of the current treatment regimens for malaria, intestinal helminth infection, onchocerciasis, filariasis and schistosomiasis, and their use in clinical practice. Geographical spread and emergence of drug resistant parasites have hindered the control of malaria, the most important global parasitic infection. Artemisinin compounds have proved effective antimalarial agents producing rapid reduction of parasite load and can be used in combination treatment regimens to combat multidrug resistance. Intestinal helminth infections are widespread, giving rise to nutritional deficiencies and impaired childhood cognitive development. Pregnant women in developing countries are at increased risk of morbidity. Treatment with a single dose benzimidazole such as albendazole or mebendazole has beneficial effects on morbidity and rates of transmission. Diethylcarbamazine has been used in the treatment of onchocerciasis and human filariasis. A complicated escalating dose regimen over several weeks is associated with systemic and allergic reactions and may require corticosteroid cover. Simplified regimens for mass population treatment with ivermectin have proved useful and been used in combination with single dose albendazole and diethylcarbamazine. The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control in West and Central Africa has been one of the most successful mass control programmes virtually eliminating new infections by a combination of chemotherapy, education and vector control. Schistosomiasis is of increasing importance as a result of the creation of new snail habitats by agricultural and economic development. Praziquantel has become the most widely available and effective chemotherapy for schistosomiasis. There have been a number of reports of persistent schistosome egg shedding after treatment posing concerns about the emergence of drug resistance. Eflornithine has been successfully used in patients with human trypanosomiasis failing melarsoprol therapy however expense and availability have limited its potential. Mass control treatment programmes have targeted schoolchildren, adolescents and pregnant women. The integration of schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, filariasis and helminth control programmes has been considered as a cost-effective method of delivering treatment. It is likely that future control will be based on this optimisation and integration of existing regimens, rather than the development of new agents.


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