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Chagas treatment: Far from ideal

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An effective treatment exists for congenital infections, for the acute and the indeterminate chronic stages of Chagas disease. But none of the currently used medications, Nifurtimox and Benznidazol (manufactured by Bayer and Roche) are ideal.

First, they do not kill the parasite in the bloodstream during the chronic stage. Secondly, they are not effective against some varieties of the parasite, depending on the region. Third, many patients do not complete the treatment because of its side effects, because it takes 60 days and because it must be administered under supervision by health staff.

The indeterminate chronic stage of Chagas disease shows no symptoms, which explains why the disease is not actively detected or diagnosed. Unfortunately, by the time the patient develops the chronic advanced stage, treatment with currently available medications is no longer effective. This is why only infected persons not yet in the advanced or chronic stages (primarily people under 15 years of age) may benefit from existing medications.

There is no treatment at all for millions of patients in the chronic stage, and, slowly but inexorably, the disease deteriorates the quality of their lives. Though Benznidazol is effective to treat Chagas disease, to increase treatment effectiveness new drugs are needed that may be administered in shorter time and may have less side effects.

Costs for developing new drugs have increased in the last years. Therefore, the pharmaceutical industry has focused its research and development activities in sectors where profits correspond to investment. So the consequence is that the major companies have completely withdrawn themselves from the search and development for new medications against Chagas disease.