Schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths
Praziquantel for schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic disease caused by worms that penetrate the skin of people in the water. There are two forms – urinary and intestinal, both of which cause damage to organs and disabilities. There is only one drug treatment – praziquantel. Praziquantel is effective and safe and work is underway to expand coverage. Even so, improvements are possible, such as a formulation that can be taken by young children as well. The product in use contains both an active and an inactive component of the molecule (technically known as a "racemic mixture") and it has not been possible so far to separate them out, because this will make the praziquantel too expensive. TDR supported with the Australian Research Council (ARC) to identify new synthetic routes to obtain the pure active form ("enantiomerically pure") of praziquantel in a way that is economically viable through an innovative open-source approach. This work also shows the feasibility of using open-access as a way to making progress in otherwise low-priority areas of research.
Soil-transmitted helminth drug candidates
Together with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), TDR is working on identifying drugs from human and veterinary medicine that could constitute valid candidates for combination treatments (short/medium term) and potentially new drugs (longer term) for soil-transmitted helminths. TDR is also involved in discussions with other institutions to facilitate collaboration and increase interest in developing and testing new tools for helminthic (worm) diseases.