A new sleeping sickness drug has been introduced, a research group announced in Kampala on Tuesday. Nifurtimox-Eflornithine Combination Therapy is the first new medicine in 25 years against a disease that affects 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) group said in a statement. “Not only is this new therapy more adapted to patient needs in remote areas, but it also cuts the cost of drugs, hospitalization, and transport,” the group’s director Bernard Pecoul said.
The new treatment reduces the number of intravenous infusions from 56 to 14 and shortens hospitalization from 14 days to 10, said the research group.
Until now, only two drug options were available, one of which was painful to inject, arsenic-based and toxic, and killed around five percent of patients.
The other required one-hour infusions administered every six hours for two weeks.
According to DNDi, the new medicine is a simplified treatment comprising oral and injectable doses.
Sleeping sickness is caused by the Trypanosoma parasite, transmitted from cattle to humans by the blood-sucking tsetse fly and is fatal without treatment.
An advanced stage affects the patient’s central nervous system and causes neuropsychiatric problems, convulsions and serious sleep disturbance that lead to coma and death.