Cheap arthritis drug is a promising dysentery treatment
There is hope that an existing arthritis drug could be used to treat dysentery and amoebic infections.
Research carried out in the US has found that auranofin, which is marketed as ridaura, is 10 times more effective than metronidazole (the current treatment) at killing the Entamoeba histolytica parasite, which causes dysentery.
Although the researchers have said more trials need to be carried out in humans, early stage animal tests of the drug have shown great promise in its ability to successfully treat amoebic dysentery and maybe even Giardia.
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Amoebic dysentery is responsible for approximately 70,000 deaths a year, mostly in developing countries and its symptoms consist of diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
It can also cause abscesses to form on the liver.
Auranofin, which has been used to treat arthritis since 1985, is able to significantly reduce the number of dysentery-causing parasites, as well as shrinking the size of liver abscesses on the liver.
It is thought the drug could would effective if it was taken as a one-off tablet or in a number of times in very small doses.
The team of researchers, who were from universities from across America, discovered auranofin’s potential while they were testing 910 drugs that had already been approved by regulatory authorities.
“When we're looking for new treatments for the developing world, we start with drugs that have already been approved,” explained Professor James McKerrow, from the University of California at San Francisco’s Sadler Centre for Drug Discovery.
“If we can find an approved drug that happens to kill these organisms, we've leapfrogged the development process that goes into assessing whether they are safe, which also makes them affordable throughout the world.”
Meanwhile the lead researcher, Professor Sharon Reed, from the University of California in San Diego, added: “Because auranofin has already been approved for use in humans, we can save years of expensive development.
“This new use of an old drug represents a promising therapy for a major health threat.”
The findings of the study have now been published in the journal Nature Medicine.
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