Health
Uganda, Canada test drug to treat brain disease
Publish Date: May 03, 2013
Uganda, Canada test drug to treat brain disease
Human brain
  • mail
  • img
newvision


Canada is funding testing in Uganda of a popular off-patent antidepressant drug to fight a fungal brain disease that claims more than half a million lives in sub-Saharan Africa every year.


Sertraline, better known as Zoloft or Lustral, was first introduced by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in 1991. It has since become the second-most prescribed antidepressant in the United States.

But recent lab work at the University of Utah found that the drug also has a potent fungicidal effect, with several women taking it to alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome reporting it also cleared up their yeast infections.

With Canadian backing, researchers at Uganda's Infectious Disease Institute at Makerere University now hope to show that it can be used to stem early deaths from cryptococcal meningitis -- an infection of the tissue covering the brain that claims 600,000 lives in sub-Saharan Africa annually.

"We're hoping to teach an old drug new tricks," lead researcher David Meya told AFP in a telephone interview from Uganda Tuesday.

"Our hope is that if this drug works against cryptococcal meningitis, we can cut mortality rates by 40 to 50 percent, which would be a huge leap."

More than 30 percent of patients die within 10 weeks of onset of the disease, which has been linked to AIDS.

Currently, it is being treated with one of two drugs: flucytosine and amphotericin. Both were developed in the 1950s and are "very expensive and not widely available in sub-Saharan Africa," Meya said.

A third drug, fluconazole, has also been tried but is less effective, he added.

"So if we discover another drug that is more effective against cryptococcal meningitis and is cheaper, we can substantially bring down mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa."

Developing and testing a new drug from scratch typically takes seven to 10 years. Repurposing a drug already on the market in this case is expected to take only four years, Meya said.

"We already know this drug's safety profile. We just need to do a clinical trial to see how effective varying amounts of the drug are at treating a new disease," he noted.

Furthermore, since drug patents for sertraline are now expired, it would be possible for generic drug makers to produce and sell it more cheaply.

The Canadian government is helping Meya's team with $100,000 (US$99,364) in seed funding through a program called Grand Challenges Canada.

It is one of more than 100 grants to innovators in 13 developing nations and in Canada "to pursue bold, creative ideas for tackling health problems," according to a statement.

The funds -- $10.9 million in total -- are to be spent on trying out remote diagnostics and monitoring, health protection, as well as drug and vaccine development and accessibility.

Other projects include a vaccine for smokers against nicotine's addictive effect; a glucose meter cell phone attachment for diabetics and a cheap instant test strip to diagnose deadly diseases like dengue and Ebola. AFP

 

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Fears 11,000 Australian dental patients exposed to HIV
Up to 11,000 Australian dental patients are urged to see their doctors over fears they may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis....
Diabetes drug
Liraglutide, an injectable diabetes drug, helped obese people lose an average of 8kg, a yearlong study says....
ARVs and TB drugs crisis hits Amuru
PEOPLE living with HIV/AIDS in Lakang and Apaa villages in Amuru district have appealed to the district leaders and health department to take health care services closer to them...
A call to construct toilets along highways
In order to improve sanitation in the country, a push is being made for toilets to be built along highways....
Patient trial validates Ebola rapid test
A 15-minute, on-the-spot blood test for Ebola was as accurate in a patient trial as the most widely-used laboratory-based test....
Boil, grill, or fry? The healthiest way to cook food
We’ve got to admit that we aren’t eating like our ancestors did; straight from the field and cooking our produce just a little, if at all....
Do you think Ugandan graduates are the worst in the region?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter