Documentation leading to the donation of an essential antiparasitic medicine for the treatment of Chagas disease to the World Health Organization (WHO) is in the final stage of preparation.
A three-year agreement, between the Mundo Sano Foundation1 (Brazil) and WHO, is expected to make available 108 000 tablets of the paediatric formulation of benznidazole2 – a first-line medicine against Chagas disease. Treatment3 with benznidazole in the early stages of infection can cure Chagas disease.
“Making benznidazole freely available for the treatment of newborns until the age of 18 will be a game-changer in the fight against Chagas disease” said Dr Mwelece Ntuli Malecela, Director, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical
Diseases. “This will not only save future generations from developing life-threatening and fatal complications but will also boost up diagnosis and treatment.”
Each year, an estimated 15 000 children are born from infected mothers. A freely available paediatric presentation of benznidazole with accurate dosage is largely expected to contribute to treat congenital infections.
“Treating newborns and children was the missing link, as we move decisively to advocate for the integration of diagnosis of infection among pregnant women and girls of child-bearing age into other surveillance programmes, including HIV and syphilis” said Dr Pedro Albajar Vinas, Medical Officer with WHO’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “Diagnosing and treating women of this age group before pregnancy can boost effectively prevent congenital transmission.”
The donation by Mundo Sano Foundation for the duration of the agreement comprises benznidazole:
- 105,000 tablets of 100mg
- 3,000 tablets of 12.5mg
Furthermore, the Foundation may donate funds of up to US$100 000 for the duration of the agreement to support activities associated with distribution of medicines and meetings. The Foundation also makes provision for an extension of this agreement beyond
the specified duration of three years.
Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi).
Although considerable progress has been achieved, particularly in reducing vector transmission and screening of blood and organ supply, reaching and diagnosing people most affected has been a challenge.
Currently, under-diagnosis of Chagas disease cases is as high as 90% and under-diagnosis of congenital transmission is believed to be even higher.
Globally, an estimated 6-7 million people are infected with T. cruzi.
The disease is found mainly in endemic areas of 21 continental Latin American countries4. But movement of people to urban areas and to other continents has expanded its transmission through non vectorial routes, such as blood transfusion, congenital
transmission, organ transplants and oral food contamination.
Considering the disease as a growing public health problem in many countries, the World Health Assembly – WHO’s decision-making body – decided in May 2019 to commemorate World Chagas Disease Day on 14 April.
The inaugural celebration happens this year.
1 Mundo Sano is a nonprofit international foundation working with the public and private sectors, academia, and other international organizations to provide solutions to the affected communities and generate scientific knowledge. In 2012, it led a public-private consortium in 2012 to produce benznidazole in Argentina.
2 In 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved benznidazole for the treatment of children aged 2–12, making it the first treatment approved in the United States for Chagas disease.
3 Nifurtimox is also 100% effective in curing Chagas disease if given soon after onset of infection, including cases of congenital infection. It is donated by Bayer who pledged more than 7.5 million tablets for the period 2012-2021.
4 Argentina, Belize, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela
(Bolivarian Republic of).
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