Home Good News RAY OF HOPE FOR CHILDREN UNDER THREAT OF PARASITES INFECTIONS

RAY OF HOPE FOR CHILDREN UNDER THREAT OF PARASITES INFECTIONS

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  • As research on anti parasitic drug is launched

The University of Botswana’s Center for Research, Indigenous knowledge and innovation (Cesriki) has embarked on a research project to create an  anti parasitic drug to cure sleeping sickness and other parasitic infections.

RAY OF HOPE:University of Botswana

The new seven million drug project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,in collaboration with The Grand Challenges Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Sciences, could rescue children from poor families whose health and school work are often compromised by  exposure to parasitic infections.
Cesriki’s leading researcher, Doctor (Dr) Kerstin Andrae-Marobela said that parasitic infections have debilitating effects on people, particularly on young children who are especially vulnerable to these infections and whose school performance is usually severely compromised.

“Parasitic infections are diseases of poverty. Therefore they are mostly neglected by pharmaceutical research and development programs because in the end there is no lucrative market for a drug which does not ensure big profit margins,” Marobela noted

One such parasitic disease is Trypanosoma (Sleeping Sickness) spread by tsetse fly bite. It can be fatal, if not treated, attacking the nervous system and causing changes in the personality or behaviour of the patient. Symptoms include confusion, slurred speed, difficulty in walking and eventually death.

The disease is common in West and Central Africa and in the wetlands such as the Okavango Delta where the tsetse fly was once a problem.Another parasitic infection is spread by the sand fly leading to Skin sores, which may become a skin ulcer that heals very slowly, Ulcers and wearing away (erosion) in the mouth, tongue, gums, lips, nose, and inner nose, Stuffy nose, runny nose, and nosebleeds, breathing difficulty, Swallowing difficulty and diarrhea in children.

Urging African researchers to be at the forefront of research that address health challenges more adequately, Marobela said:“Obviously, if drug discovery takes place in Africa, the control over its development remains in Africa and can be better matched to people’s needs.

Parasites are a health challenge in Botswana, though there is actually not much data available on them. Mostly, data record infections in school children, who constitute the high risk group when it comes to worm infections. Also, not all parts of the country are equally affected, as the areas, such as Kgalakgadi is too hot for some parasites.

So, this CesrIKi project will benefit the country, if eventually a drug candidate can be developed, to have control over an effective means to address health challenges which are otherwise neglected.”
To that end Marobela said the African Scientists have initiated in 2008 a pan-African Natural Product Library (p-ANPL) consortium which brings together African natural product scientists from close to 15 different countries who have agreed to pool parts of their compound resources for drug discovery purposes.