Friday, February 13, 2015

OUTBREAK UPDATE: Successful Test in Brazil of Therapy for Chagas Disease


RIO DE JANEIRO – A team of researchers at Brazil’s Sao Paulo Federal University, known as Unifesp, has developed and successfully tested in animals a therapeutic vaccine for Chagas disease, an illness that affects millions of people in the Americas.

In trials with lab mice, the vaccine activated the creatures’ immune systems to battle the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite that causes the disease, according to the Sao Paulo State Foundation for Research, or Fapesp, which is funding the project.

The vaccine boosted the survival rate among infected mice from 0 percent to 80 percent, reducing the parasite load in their bodies and the incidence of Chagas symptoms such as cardiac arrhythmia.

Scientists have so far been unable to devise a vaccine that can prevent Chagas disease.

Mauricio Martins Rodrigues, a Unifesp researcher, has spent more than two decades coordinating efforts to develop a therapeutic vaccine, with support from Brazil’s Ministry of Health, several Brazilian universities and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“The therapeutic inoculation may cause a reduction in symptoms, a decrease in mortality rates, and an improvement in the quality of life for the nearly 10 million people in Latin America who suffer the disease in its chronic phase, and for whom conventional treatments do not always work,” Rodrigues said in a statement from Fapesp posted online.

Lab mice were observed for 250 days after being infected with Chagas. While all the animals that did not receive the inoculation died, 80 percent of those who were inoculated survived.

Among inoculated mice, 33 percent developed cardiac arrhythmia, compared with 100 percent of those that did not receive the vaccine.

The scientists will need to complete more tests to develop a formula safe and effective for humans before starting clinical trials.

Chagas, a potentially fatal disease that causes cardiac disorders, is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans by blood-sucking “kissing bugs” that are known by various names across Latin America.


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