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Targeting Trypanosomes
21 July 2015

Targeting Trypanosomes

In sub-Saharan Africa, the parasite Trypanosoma brucei (pictured) threatens the lives of millions of people. It causes trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, and is transmitted through the bites of infected tsetse flies. The disease is fatal if untreated, but the existing drugs have serious side effects and often become ineffective because the parasites easily develop resistance: they mutate the transporter proteins that shuttle the drugs into the cell. Hope is on the horizon, however, in the form of targeted nanoparticles (seen dotted over the parasite’s surface). These nanoparticles carry the same drugs, but are coated with antibodies that target a conserved [less prone to mutation] parasite protein and prompt the drugs’ direct absorption. Not only were the nanoparticles able to kill an otherwise drug-resistant strain of T. brucei, but in a mouse model of trypanosomiasis they were 100-fold more efficient at clearing infection than the standard drug delivery method.

Written by Ruth Williams

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