New treatment for Kala-azar
Researchers at the Banaras Hindu University have developed a short course drug regimen for the treatment of Kala-azar, a dreaded disease rampant in some parts of India. The drug has been developed by researchers form the BHU in collaboration with scientists from the Cornell University in the United States.
The new treatment drug is made from the specific form of Amphotericin B, the preferred drug of treatment for Kala-azar. This developed drug is given intravenously to patients for a duration of 5 days in doses significantly lower than those of the usual Amphotericin B. Molecules of amphotericin are wrapped inside fat molecules and then injected into the patient's body. The researchers found that this was effective in about 92 percent of the participants. The participants were patients in whom the conventional drugs had failed.
Conventional dose of amphotericin B is 21 mg/kg of body weight of patients and is given on alternate days for a period of five to six weeks. On the other hand, the short course treatment requires a hospital stay of only five days during which the drug is administered. This greatly reduces the cost of the drug and that of the stay in the hospital. A small daily dose of only 5 mg/kg weight of the patient is given in the new treatment. This brings the cost of treatment down to almost one third of the original.
Experts say that the original dose of amphotericin produces effects like high fever and heart, kidney and liver toxicity in the patients. This is because when given as such, the drug is also absorbed by other body tissues giving rise to the side effects. When given wrapped in fat molecules, the drug only attacks the tissues in which the kala-azar parasite hides. This helps to minimise the adverse effects of the drug.
Kala-azar is a form of leishmaniasis that affects organs like the spleen and liver causing them to enlarge. It is accompanied by weight loss, fever and anaemia. Bihar is an endemic region for kala-azar and the last epidemic broke out in 1977 when more than 100,000 cases were reported from the state.
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