In Small Items, Comes Big Strengths
Hello my friends, this blog will involve us returning to “the compact world of science”, but with an alternate take on things the only way I know how.
Schistosomiasis?, better off calling it snail fever!
Schistosomiasis, known also as bilharzia (how’s that for a tongue-twister!), is a chronic parasitic disease caused by parasitic flat worms called blood-flukes. These worms spread to hosts mainly through skin contact with contaminated freshwater. Once inside, the blood-flukes feed on blood in the skin before moving onto the lungs and eventually the heart in a matter of days. These crafty worms only exude their full-length effects several years after initial infection. Long-term infection can lead liver damage, kidney failure and even bladder cancer. These things thus give cause for the WHO (World Health Organization) to label Schistosomiasis as “the second most socioeconomically devastating parasitic disease after malaria”.
With up to 210 million people currently infected, there is a sense of urgency in getting this disease treated. Part of what makes Schistosomiasis a NTD are the minimal treatment approaches presently on display. With oxamniquine (Ox-am-ni-quine guys!) being effective for only one species of blood-flukes, praziquantel is the primary choice in treating schistosomiasis. That being said, praziquantel suffers from reduced efficacy, which in turn diminishes the antischistosomal properties it possesses.
It truly brings me a sense of sadness to see sights like this. This young boy should be free to enjoy life, have fun and play in school, not be suffering like this!
Small things often leave the biggest mark!
A preclinical study by Egyptian scientists investigated the potential of miltefosine as an alternative approach to praziquantel. Miltefosine (MFS) (for those slightly confused), is a compound currently used to treat tumours in breast cancer and serves as being the sole oral therapeutic option in treating leishmaniasis. Previous studies involving MFS have shown its potential in treating schistosomiasis; however requiring multiple doses reduced its clinical applicability as an alternative. In addition to this, MFS usage can often carry detrimental side effects on the host, so questions on how MFS could be implemented sprung to life.
As one would have it, nanotechnology came up as a possible avenue of interest (sometimes smaller is better right?). The study looked at incorporating MFS in lipid-soluble nanocapsules (LNCs) and enabling an enhanced effect of MFS can be applied on the crafty parasites and circumvent any adverse effects.
Findings from the study showed that when using the LNCS, significant reduction in worm number and significant worm membrane ensued. These findings come as great news for a disease very often shunned away from public awareness and knowledge.
Nanotechnology has been a personal field of interest of mine for some time, and I find the prospect of merging together the antischistosomal properties of MFS and biopharmaceutical advantages of LNCs to be highly innovative. Furthermore, I believe this discovery can bring about hope for a concrete method in effectively treating schistosomiasis. Whilst this was only a preclinical study, it can’t be disregarded that this is a pivotal step in changing the NEGLECTED into RESPECTED. Till next time folks.