Drug resistance in human African trypanosomiasis

Barrett, M.P. , Vincent, I.M. , Burchmore, R.J.S. , Kazibwe, A.J.N. and Matovu, E. (2011) Drug resistance in human African trypanosomiasis. Future Microbiology, 6(9), pp. 1037-1047. (doi: 10.2217/fmb.11.88) (PMID:21958143)

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Human African trypanosomiasis or 'sleeping sickness' is a neglected tropical disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei. A decade of intense international cooperation has brought the incidence to fewer than 10,000 reported cases per annum with anti-trypanosomal drugs, particularly against stage 2 disease where the CNS is involved, being central to control. Treatment failures with melarsoprol started to appear in the 1990s and their incidence has risen sharply in many foci. Loss of plasma membrane transporters involved in drug uptake, particularly the P2 aminopurine transporter and also a transporter termed the high affinity pentamidine transporter, relate to melarsoprol resistance selected in the laboratory. The same two transporters are also responsible for the uptake of the stage 1 drug pentamidine and, to varying extents, other diamidines. However, reports of treatment failures with pentamidine have been rare from the field. Eflornithine (difluoromethylornithine) has replaced melarsoprol as first-line treatment in many regions. However, a need for protracted and complicated drug dosing regimens slowed widespread implementation of eflornithine monotherapy. A combination of eflornithine with nifurtimox substantially decreases the required dose and duration of eflornithine administration and this nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy has enjoyed rapid implementation. Unfortunately, selection of resistance to eflornithine in the laboratory is relatively easy (through loss of an amino acid transporter believed to be involved in its uptake), as is selection of resistance to nifurtimox. The first anecdotal reports of treatment failures with eflornithine monotherapy are emerging from some foci. The possibility that parasites resistant to melarsoprol on the one hand, and eflornithine on the other, are present in the field indicates that genes capable of conferring drug resistance to both drugs are in circulation. If new drugs, that act in ways that will not render them susceptible to resistance mechanisms already in circulation do not appear soon, there is also a risk that the current downward trend in Human African trypanosomiasis prevalence will be reversed and, as has happened in the past, the disease will become resurgent, only this time in a form that resists available drugs.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Vincent, Dr Isabel and Burchmore, Dr Richard and Matovu, Dr Enock and Barrett, Professor Michael
Authors: Barrett, M.P., Vincent, I.M., Burchmore, R.J.S., Kazibwe, A.J.N., and Matovu, E.
Subjects:R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection Immunity and Inflammation
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences
Journal Name:Future Microbiology
Publisher:Future Medicine
ISSN (Online):1746-0921

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