In a recent study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, an anti-parasite drug by the name of ‘benznidazole’ may hold potential in improving the long-term prognoses of patients with chronic Chagas disease.
Trypansosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
Found mainly in endemic areas, Chagas disease is a life-threatening illness caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) and is the leading cause of cardiopathy and death in Latin America. Currently, about 6 million to 7 million people worldwide are affected by Chagas disease. Parasitic transmission to humans is through contact with feces or urine of triatomine bugs, also known as 'kissing bugs'.
Few treatments exist to patients of Chagas diseases and among those known treatment options—the specific therapeutic benefits are not understood. In a comprehensive study, scientists in Brazil studied 1,813 patients who had tested positive for the parasite T. cruzi. They then compared clinical outcomes of two groups: those who had previously received benznidazole treatments and those who had not taken any benznidazole.
After a two year follow-up period, results of the study indicated that those patients that were treated with benznidazole in the early stages of the disease-- had improved clinical and parasitological outcomes. However, during the same period those patients that did not receive the benznidazole treatment had lower mortality rates, lower parasite counts, and a reduced risk of any Chagas-related heart disease.
The study demonstrated a marked clinical benefit from benznidazole and according to the researchers, further study is needed to learn more about the duration and dose need for effective treatment.
Even though the study holds limitations, researchers urge health care professionals to treat Chagas patients with benznidazole in the early-stages of the disease: "Because there are millions of untreated ChD patients in the world and no new treatments are available for the foreseeable future, it is reasonable to consider treating all Chagas disease patients without advanced cardiopathy with benznidazole, especially those who are less than 50 years of age."