The Smaller They Are, The Harder They Hit

Here we are again readers, sometimes the smallest things in life are the ones that can carry the most impact and using that as a point of focus, let us delve into the “compact” side of science.

Chagas Disease?, never heard of it mate!

When I think of Brazil, images of the Amazon, football and samba dancing start to visualize. Now Mexico, it’s all about: telenovelas, tacos and mariachi bands, and ah how could I forget about the land of Diego Maradona and Jorge Luis Borges (if you readers don’t know whom he is, then that’s some takeaway homework for you guys).

Something more than just delicious foodstuffs, eccentric dance styles and a fascination with the time-old activity that is football connects these three great nations together, and I’m talking about the culture ok?

Something more than just delicious foodstuffs, eccentric dance styles and a fascination with the time-old activity that is football connects these three great nations together, and I’m not talking about the culture ok?

Now, before you guys think I’ve turned into a tourist blogger, please relax for I am talking about that pesky disease known as Chagas Disease (CD). The vast majority of people might say “Chagas Disease?, never heard of it mate!” Don’t worry, by the end of the post you will have.

Well, CD (aka American Trypanosomiasis) is of parasitic origin, but is less clear-cut than its African counterpart sleeping sickness. CD is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, and is spread by insects known as “kissing bugs”. When these irritating insects work their magic through biting individuals’ faces, they also dispose fecal matter on the bite site. Parasitic invasion comes about through scratching the bite site, causing parasitic spread across the body to yield: lesions, cardiac damage, dementia among other effects.

“How does this concern me though?” you may ask, well, in decades past, CD was mainly localized to rural dwellings within both Latin and Southern America. The early chronic phase of CD being asymptomatic, migration and also an increase in infected blood and organ donors all have led to a sharp increase of reported cases in: the US, Spain and Italy.

Speaking of treatment, there’s currently two forms of such – nifurtimox and benznidazole – which are both administered orally. These chemical compounds possess the ability to completely eradicate the parasite in the acute phase however, both compounds carry high toxicity levels. Benznidazole’s side effects may be less detrimental than nifurtimox but its low efficacy levels highlights a required shift for effective treatment.

A nano-treat for us?

In view of this, the concept of nanotechnology has been discussed as a potential approach to treating CD, and whilst not yet completed, it is worth mentioning that there is currently an EU-funded project looking to utilise nanotechnology in a way to improve the efficacy levels whilst also reducing the toxicity levels. (may sound complex now but bare with me guys)

The project, under the name BERENICE (Benznidazole and Triazole REsearch group for Nanomedicine and Innovation on Chagas disease), is investigating the potential of having benznidazole-containing lipid-nanoformulated particles as an alternative oral form of treatment which could, in theory, improve the effectiveness of current CD drug therapies. This shall be accomplished by the particles avoiding breakdown in the liver and specifically targeting the parasites in the blood, hence reducing the toxicity profile and total dosage required.

This shorthand schematic helps to essentially explain what the project is about in summary

If you can’t be asked to read any of the above, this shorthand schematic helps to put things into perspective.

Concluding points:

I’ve often envisioned nanotechnology to be mini robots operating in our bodies, but this new information shows great promise in helping to treat CD. Regardless, questions will be asked about both the health and environmental implications of using nanotechnology. Whilst available answers would be very appreciated, we are stuck in the unknown, so all we can do right now is wait with a sense of optimism.

Still, with that being said, this is a big advance in finding ways and methods to treat CD, perhaps these NEGLECTED diseases are starting to turn into being RESPECTED.



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