A new drug tested in Brazil will increase the chances of cure for more than 90% of infants who are infected by Chagas disease, parasitic disease, endemic in 21 Latin American countries, which each year cause many victims more than malaria.
Until recently, children were treated with improvised methods, adopting drugs used for adults. According to the responsible of the Clinical Program of Chagas, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, this new drug has a great potential impact on infants and children who are less than two years old or weigh up to 20 kilos. An exact dose of LAFEPE Benznidazole, this is the new drug, will minimize the risk of overdose or the wrong dose.
Worldwide, Chagas still infects between eight to 10 million people, mainly in Latin America, and kills around 12 000, most die from heart problems. The insect vector, in fact, pricks men transmitting the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which enters the bloodstream and triggers a progressive deterioration of heart tissue, causing disability and death in severe cases. This insect hides in cracks and crevices of brick, reeds, straw and logs, including the materials of the most humble lodgings in the towns and settlements. However, the transmission of the disease also occurs through blood transfusions, organ transplants and through the placenta. Boys and girls are particularly vulnerable to infection.
Most of the 14 000 born each year affected by the disease are infected by maternal transmission.
This disease has been changing over the years due to migration, it has become a pathology easily detectable in the suburbs of large cities, where the most common form is the mother-child transmission. Many women find that they are infected during pregnancy. The Brazilian laboratory LAFEPE is the only manufacturer of benznidazole in the world and has made the product available at cost to all governments and NGOs.
Work is underway to register the drug in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay, countries where the prevalence of the disease is very high and treatment is urgently needed. There are about 300 000 cases in the United States and some European countries.