New treatment for sleeping sickness



Patients at an advanced stage of Human African Trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, can now access more convenient, safer and cheaper treatment after the introduction of Nifurtimox-Eflornithine Combination Therapy (NECT).

Developed by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) and partners, NECT comprises the administration of oral nifurtimox, and eflornithine injections for 10 days.

Past treatment has either been the widely-used arsenic-based melarsoprol injections, which kill an estimated five percent of patients, or eflornithine monotherapy, which requires 56 one-hour infusions in 14 days.

The diagnosis of sleeping sickness, which is spread by the bite of an infected tsetse fly, involves puncturing the lower back (lumbar) for a spinal fluid sample to determine whether parasites have invaded the brain.

Brain invasion in advanced stages leads to problems such as confusion, personality changes, slurred speech, seizures, and difficulty walking and talking - left untreated, the disease is fatal. At the initial stages, symptoms include fever and aching muscles and joints.

Sleeping sickness is endemic in 36 African countries and affects an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 people at any one time.

DNDi estimates that NECT will cost about 223 Euros (about 232 $US), half the cost of eflornithine monotherapy.

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