The medical development has been tested in animal models, where it was observed that the disease stopped in 80 percent of cases; physicians expect similar results from a human control group.
Mexican and American researchers are working on developing a vaccine to stop Chagas disease which is expected to be available for the population within the next three years.
Involved in the scientific work are the Baylor College Medicine, the Center for Research and Advanced Studies, Autonomous University of Yucatán, the laboratory Birmex and the Sabin Vaccine Institute; with funding from the Carlos Slim Health Institute.
So far, the drug that has shown better results against Chagas disease is benznidazole. "However, when administered in newly infected people it has a 60 percent effectiveness at stoping the progression of the disease. Besides, it even manifest certain side effects that make the patient often leave the treatment," says Maria Elena Bottazzi form Baylor College Medicine, who led the project of the therapeutic vaccine, called so because it is still in an experimental phase.
"When we hear the word vaccine we relate it to prevention, in this case of cardiac complications, but this one has demonstrated better tolerance, efficiency time and can be used in conjunction with benznidazole," said the American researcher.
Chagas disease is also called the disease of the poor, as it mainly affects the lower income population in rural areas. It is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi and transmitted by a blood transfusion or by the bite of the so called "kissing bug" Triatoma infestans.
If the condition is not detected during the first two months, or temporal phase, it passes to a chronic phase, in which the parasites move through the bloodstream into the heart and the digestive system tissues, which will gradually undermine.
Its symptoms can range from dizziness and digestive problems, to abdominal pain, palpitations and difficulty at swallowing; over time cardiac failure will occur by deformation of the myocardium, and in severe cases the abnormality of heart rhythm could cause sudden death.
According to Doctors without Borders in Latin America eight million people currently have Chagas disease and 25 million are at risk of infection, of which 30 percent will develop heart problems; in Mexico it affects 1.1 million people.
The disease can be treated with medication; however, less than one percent of those infected have access to it, plus it requires great care available in its administration.
Maria Elena Bottazzi said that the therapeutic vaccine has been tested in laboratory rodents and dogs infected with T. cruzi and it was observed that the disease stopped in 80 percent and, when administered preemptively, it protects against the parasite in the bloodstream.
The researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine emphasized that its effectiveness is being analyzed in a control group of infected human patients in Mexico, and it is expected that in the next three years all tests to obtain a vaccine will be finalized and it will be made available to the population.
Moreover, Roberto Tapia Conver, director of the Institute of Health Carlos Slim, said that in regard of the parasitology field, "Mexico has much to show but also a lot to learn. The world is still very noble; many social organizations set priorities and how to address them, making their purpose to connect researchers, scientists and vaccine manufacturers to develop and manufacture the products making them available to people, which is the ultimate goal ."
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