Veterinary drug against worms in children

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Combat worms in children with veterinary medicine

In the future, an active ingredient that was previously only used in veterinary medicine could free intestinal worms from millions of children in developing countries. According to a study, this drug is many times more effective than conventional standard therapies.

One billion people infected Worldwide, around one billion people are infected with hookworms and whipworms. Children in developing countries, who are often infected due to a lack of latrines and clean water, are particularly affected. Whipworm worm eggs pass through the contaminated soil into the gastrointestinal tract, where they then grow over several stages of development. As a result, there is a delay in children's development, reduced performance and sometimes dangerous anemia.

Recommended therapies have little effect The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended annual deworming treatment for children and people from risk groups such as field workers and mine workers to curb the health burden caused by worm diseases. The recommended standard therapies with albendazole or mebendazole had little effect against the widespread whipworm Trichuris trichiura.

Active ingredient from veterinary medicine A team led by Benjamin Speich from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (SwissTPH) in Basel has now investigated an active ingredient that has been used in veterinary medicine since the 1970s. "We remembered an effective deworming preparation from veterinary medicine," said Jennifer Keizer from the Basler Institute. The scientists published the results of their study in the journal “New England Journal of Medicine”.

Combination of standard medication and veterinary medicine The Swiss researchers treated over 450 children on the East African island of Pemba (Tanzania) either with the "Oxantel Pamoate" preparation otherwise used in veterinary medicine or with the standard therapies. It turned out that the best effect could be achieved by a combination of oxantel and albendazole. After just one treatment with this combination of active ingredients, 31 percent of the children were free from whipworms. Treatment with albendazole alone was only 2.6 percent and mebendazole was 11.8 percent.

Significantly better effect The combination also reduced the number of worm eggs in the children's stool by 96 percent, but only 45 to 75 percent with the other means. "We were able to show that this active ingredient works significantly better," says Speich, but not against hookworms and roundworms. The side effects were comparable to those of the standard therapies and were mostly mild.

Improving the health of millions of children As study leader Keizer explained, the use of oxantel in humans has been discussed among experts for worm diseases for some time. However, since the active ingredient was previously only available in combination with other substances, the researchers would first have had to develop a child-friendly tablet with the help of pharmacists from the University of Basel. The scientists said that further clinical tests are currently in progress to improve the dosage and delivery regimen of the drug. Based on the Basel study, the WHO could extend its recommendation to this substance in the future. This could improve the health of millions of children worldwide. (sb)

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