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Swiss breakthrough in treatment of deadly African disease

Swiss researchers have discovered that a cheaper shorter drug treatment for sleeping sickness is just as effective as the standard longer regimen. Sleeping Sickness is transmitted to humans from the bite of the tsetse fly (picture).

This content was published on April 21, 2000 - 17:04

Swiss researchers have discovered that a cheaper and shorter drug treatment for sleeping sickness is just as effective as the standard longer regimen. Sleeping Sickness, or African Trypanosomiasis, is transmitted to humans from the bite of the tsetse fly (picture).

The findings of the team from the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel have been published in the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet. The researchers, headed by Dr Christian Burri, gave 125 patients in Angola 10 daily injections of the drug, Melarsopol, instead of a 26-day course.

They found that the shorter course of treatment was just as effective, had a similar number of side effects and a lower patient drop-out rate. Burri's team said the new regimen had the potential to become widely used.

"The significantly reduced duration of treatment and hospitalisation, and the 30 per cent saving...offer considerable economic and practical advantages, especially for regions with limited resources and high prevalence of the disease," they reported in The Lancet.

Sleeping Sickness is fatal if untreated. It causes influenza-like symptoms, inflammation of the brain, behavioural changes and coma.

An estimated 300,000 people have the disease and about 60 million are at risk.

swissinfo with agencies


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