Kala-azar, the most severe form of leishmaniasis, is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of infected female sandflies.
New Delhi: “Visceral leishmaniasis,” commonly known as “kala-azar” or Dum-Dum fever, has been the cause of great suffering and deaths for hundreds of years in many parts of the world.
The Indian subcontinent harbours an estimated 67 per cent of the global kala-azar burden with almost 200 million people at risk of contracting the disease. However, the most affected are the poorest communities across the globe.
Following the Central government’s aim of eliminating kala-azar as one of its important flagship programmes, a group of Indian scientists have developed a new drug using the Asian herb, ‘Peganum harmala.’
“The unmatched, natural chemical diversity can be explored by modernised and systematic approaches to develop novel compounds for combating parasite born diseases. This study can be a landmark for future therapeutics. We have crossed the first milestone by successfully developing a potent compound, which is better than the existing chemotherapeutics. However, in order to bring these compounds into the market, several approvals and trials would be needed,” Dr Shailja Singh, a lead member of the team from Jawaharlal Nehru University, said.
Furthering her statement, Dr Subhabrata Sen, a member of the team from the department of chemistry at the Shiv Nadar University (SNU), said that natural products are resources for diverse pharmaceutical ailments, hence, leveraging them to generate libraries are extremely pragmatic.
“Through this work, we have demonstrated such a library to discover an “antileishmanial” compound,” he said. Kala-azar, the most severe form of leishmaniasis, is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of infected female sandflies.
Dr Soumya Pati, a member of the team from the department of life science, SNU, added that they have used the computer-aided approach for designing these novel compounds for better selectivity towards the parasite molecules without affecting the human system.
“The work has further deciphered the target of the drug which is an important enzyme of the parasite named “Trypanothione reductase” not present in humans,” described Dr Swati Garg, another member of the team.