An adjusted version of an established drug against schistosomiasis, a tropical parasitic worm disease, has been shown to work in preschool children, likely offering a cure for millions.
German chemical company Merck KGaA reported that in a late-stage trial in Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya, more than 90% of the participants, infected children ages 3 months to 6 years, had no more parasite eggs in their stool or urine after up to three weeks of treatment.
The company said it now will seek regulatory approval to produce and distribute the oral drug. Arpraziquantel is an experimental pediatric version of the standard drug praziquantel.
It also was shown to be safe and tolerated well, Merck said.
The Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium confirmed the positive results and said that schistosomiasis is one of the most damaging parasitic diseases in the world. The World Health Organization reported that 105.4 million people were treated for the disease in 2019.
Praziquantel is the standard treatment for schoolchildren and adults, leaving an estimated 50 million toddlers and preschoolers without a treatment option.
The disease, also known as bilharzia, is caused by parasitic flatworms. It spreads via freshwater snails in tropical and subtropical regions across the globe but mostly affects poor and rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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