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Potential breakthrough in the fight against worm diseases

Over one billion people suffer from neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a large number of which are worm diseases. Recently, researchers announced a new drug treatment that could represent a significant advancement over current methods of treatment.

Elephantiasis is caused by lymphostasis.

The list of neglected tropical diseases is long. A number of worm diseases are also counted among the NTDs, alongside bacterial infections such as leprosy, viral diseases such as rabies and other diseases such as scabies. Two of these worm diseases are river blindness and elephantiasis, which can cause severe disabilities and affect more than 157 million people worldwide.

River blindness causes painful itching, and some victims develop infected eye lesions that can result in permanent blindness. Elephantiasis, which is triggered by lymph blockages, manifests itself in the extreme enlargement of parts of the body. Both diseases are caused by worms, which are symbiotically dependent on Wolbachia bacteria at different stages of their life cycles. A daily antibiotic treatment that kills Wolbachia bacteria takes four to six weeks – no small amount of time or commitment.

A shorter treatment is possible
In a recent paper, researchers at the University of Liverpool have described how it may be possible to achieve the same effect in just seven days using a new antibiotic. Although the effectiveness is currently limited to animal studies, an application in humans has the ability to make a significant impact on efforts to combat worm diseases, not least because the product could also be taken orally, as the scientific platform IFlScience writes.

Administration of a treatment using pills rather than injections, as well as shorter treatment times, are critical components in the fight against NTDs. This is because these diseases occur in particular where there is a lack of medical care, basic sanitary facilities and clean drinking water– precisely in those areas where FAIRMED is working to help the poorest people in the world live healthier lives.