The race to find new drugs for a neglected tropical disease

Schistosomiasis is a neglected yet important disease which affects the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. Those infected with the disease can experience liver damage, kidney failure, infertility, or bladder cancer. The disease is spread through contact with fresh water contaminated with parasite flatworms.

The disease is especially common among children in developing countries as they are more likely to play in contaminated water. There is one drug available to treat the disease and yet even this lifeline is in doubt as the parasite is developing resistance to it. The race is on to create new drugs to fight the disease.

Newton funded researchers in the UK and Brazil are using advanced x-ray technology at the UK’s national synchrotron science facility. They hope to find a way to prevent a protein prevelant in schistosoma worms – and known to be crucial to its survival – from working, starting the process of drug discovery. The team has also developed a network that shares expertise and builds research capacity in Brazil, a country whose population is particularly at risk from schistosomiasis.

The team hopes to strengthen collaborations with the Brazilian Ministry of Health to enable clinical trials of candidate drugs against schistosomiasis and to create unprecedented capacity in Brazil for state-of-the-art drug discovery, which could be applied to other neglected diseases.

It’s a privilege to have been given the opportunity to collaborate with researchers in an endemic country and take a step closer to advancing new treatments of schistosomiasis.

Nicholas Furnham, Associate Professor, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Building research capacity for schistosomiasis drug discovery and development through high-content imaging and structural molecular biology studies

Project leads: Nicholas Furnham, Associate Professor, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Floriano Silva-Jr, Full Researcher, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation

Delivery partners: Medical Research Council (originally RCUK), Brazilian Council of State Funding Agencies (CONFAP) and the Foundation for the Support of Research in Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ)

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