EAST LANSING, Mich. In an effort to eliminate the tropical diseases elephantiasis and river blindness, a Michigan State University researcher has been awarded $2 million to reformulate an existing drug that could stop the debilitating diseases in their tracks.
Charles Mackenzie, a professor of veterinary pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, was awarded the funding via a larger $13 million grant the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis) and river blindness (onchocerciasis) known as filarial diseases, in which the body is infected with parasitic worms afflict about 140 million people worldwide, doing much of its damage in equatorial Africa.
Elephantiasis, caused by tiny worms spread via mosquitoes, results in severe swelling of the legs, arms and torso. River blindness is spread by black flies, and after the parasitic worms die in a person's eye, can cause blindness and debilitating skin disease.
Mackenzie, who has been studying filarial diseases for more than 30 years and has done extensive work in Tanzania and Ecuador, is focusing on flubendazole. The drug was used in the 1980s with good results against filarial worms when it was injected in animals and humans. However, the injections caused severe abscesses and lost effectiveness outside of the digestive system.
"We think the oil the drug was dissolved in before administering it may have caused the reactions," Mackenzie said. "We are working now to develop a new way to safely administer this medicine."
Since the medicine targets the adult parasitic worms so well, Mackenzie is confident that developing a safe way to deliver it would have a huge impact.
"The technology we have today is leaps and bounds ahead of what we were using in the 1980s," he said. "If we can reformulate the drug and easily administer it, we can make meeting t
|Contact: Jason Cody|
Michigan State University