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UIC researchers hunting drugs for devastating parasitic disease
Date:12/16/2008

Hundreds of millions of people, mainly in developing countries, are disabled by infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 12 million people in 88 countries are infected with leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease spread by the bite of infected sand flies. Nearly 2 million new cases are reported and about 70,000 people die from the disease annually.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered that compounds derived from a natural product can be used in developing a new drug to treat the disease.

Despite a worsening global impact of this disease, little progress has been made toward the development of new chemotherapeutics against it, says Alan Kozikowski, professor and director of UIC's Drug Discovery Program and coordinator of the project.

Drugs compounded from the toxic metal antimony have been the first-line therapeutic option for more than 50 years.

"But antimonials may cause acute pancreatitis and cardiac arrhythmia and can sometimes lead to death," Kozikowski said. Only recently, he said, have novel agents been added to the therapeutic arsenal.

Leishmaniasis can be cutaneus, which causes skin sores that leave ugly scars, or visceral, which is 100 percent fatal if left untreated.

Visceral leishmaniasis has increased in recent years due to emerging co-infections with HIV, spreading the disease to the developed countries in North America and southern Europe, Kozikowski said. The disease is normally found in tropical regions, from the rain forests in Central and South America to deserts in West Asia.

To find a starting point from which to develop a better drug, UIC postdoctoral researchers Suresh Tipparaju and Marco Pieroni synthesized a chemical "library" of more than 100 diverse compounds and screened them for biological activity against the Leishmania parasite. They observed high antiparasitic activity in a compound first iso
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Contact: Sam Hostettler
samhos@uic.edu
312-355-2522
University of Illinois at Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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