Scientists Find Single Dose Of Drug Cures Visceral Leishmaniasis

A study has shown that a single infusion of Gilead Sciences’ drug AmBisome, known generically as iposomal amphotericin B, cured nearly all patients with visceral leishmaniasis, or kala-azar, a parasitic infection, Reuters reports. Spread by the sand fly and affecting 500,000 people a year, visceral leishmaniasis is found in Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe, but is concentrated in India, according to the news service. 

Published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study also demonstrated that the drug proved as effective as the conventional treatments for the condition, which are administered over a longer period of time and carry a greater risk of side effects, Reuters continues. 

Scientists “found AmBisome cured all 304 patients with leishmaniasis within 30 days, compared to 98 percent of 108 volunteers in a comparison group who received 29 days of in-hospital treatment with a different form of amphotericin. There were some relapses by the six-month mark, but the success rate of the two treatments was essentially the same – over 95 percent,” the news service writes. Additionally, the scientists reported “AmBisome ‘was not associated with any safety concerns in adults or children, and compliance was guaranteed,'” according to Reuters.

“At $20 per vial, the drug is more expensive than the established treatment with amphotericin B deoxycholate. But the one-time infusion made overall treatment less expensive because a long hospital stay and laboratory monitoring was avoided,” the news service writes. By cutting down the length of treatment for leishmaniasis “you can treat 40 to 50 times more patients,” Shyam Sunda, lead author of the study, said (2/10).

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