Human African trypanosomiasis

Nifurtimox-eflornithine combination treatment for sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis): WHO wraps up training of key health care personnel

23 March 2010 | Geneva

Key health care workers involved in the treatment of patients suffering from the Gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) - also called sleeping sickness - have completed a training course, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Two separate workshops were held to teach 28 participants on how to effectively handle special kits of the complex nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy, developed by WHO. Health care workers from 9 countries* which have reported more than 90% of the overall HAT cases in the past five years attended the training sessions.

"…We want the nifurtimox-eflornithine combination treatment to become available to as many HAT patients as possible…" … "… As this requires skilled staff and involves weighty and expensive equipment, we need well- trained health care personnel to administer this complex treatment…"

Dr Pere P. Simarro, Medical Officer in charge of the WHO human African trypanosomiasis programme in Geneva, Switzerland.

The first workshop in French was held between 23- 28 November 2009 at the 'Hôpital Roi Beaudouin in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A second training course in English was held at the Omugo Health Centre (Maracha-Terego County), Uganda between 22- 27 February 2010.

Those who successfully completed the two workshops are now expected to train their counterparts in respective countries to enable them administer the nifurtimox-eflornithine combination treatment for the Gambiense form of the disease.

Nifurtimox-eflornithine treatment combination

In April 2009, the combination of nifurtimox and eflornithine was included in WHO's Model List of Essential Medicines. This new combination has shown safety and efficacy in clinical trials. It is easier to administer and has a shorter treatment duration than the eflornithine monotherapy.

Several disease endemic countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sudan and Uganda have adopted this combination therapy to manage advanced stages of the Gambiense form of sleeping sickness.

The use of the combination therapy will be monitored through a specific pharmaco-vigilance system, set up by WHO and the Sleeping Sickness National Programme (SSNCP). The availability of trained staff will now enable WHO to expand the distribution of treatment kits in a joint effort with SSNCP and other partners to ensure that people suffering from this condition have greater access to this new treatment combination.

The medicines have been donated to WHO through a Public-Private-Partnership by the pharmaceutical companies, sanofi-aventis and Bayer Schering Pharm. The treatment kits, containing the additional material required for facilitating its use, are supplied free of charge to disease-endemic countries by WHO in collaboration with MSF-Logistique.

*Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Sudan, and Uganda.