Kala Azar, Killing 50,000 to 60,000 People Each Year

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Health & Insurance----Kala azar is another name for visceral leishmaniasis (VL), which is endemic parasitic disease which affects approximately 70 countries in the world. 

Southern Sudan has the second highest number of cases after India.

The disease is spread through the bite of sand flies. Approximately half a million people are infected and 50,000 to 60,000 people die per year due to this infection.

Patients who are infected have symptoms such as irregular fever, rapid weight loss, swollen spleen and liver, and anemia.

Collaboration in all endemic areas through Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP) has developed a new combination therapies that are cheaper and faster.

In Nairobi, more than 100 researchers and clinical experts from the Department of Health and drug regulatory authorities will hold its biannual meeting this week LEAP. This meeting will discuss what worked in the field and trying to find more good ways to control this disease.

After 70 years of experience some improvement and change in the treatment of Kala Azar in Africa, LEAP and its partners have managed to find new treatments that combination treatment Sodium Stibogluconate & paromomycin (SSG & PM).

These drugs are less expensive and accelerate the treatment of nearly half the time previously required, ie from 30 days after injection to 17 days.

Combination therapy also helps overcome resistance to treatment. Countries in East Africa region are in the process of registration and ready to use the medication, but they still need funding to control the disease.

"I have spent 50 years caring for patients with Kala Azar and researching this killer parasite. I know the patients here are very poor and overburdened health workers with the treatment is quicker, cheaper, and easier to use," said Professor Ahmed Mohamed El Hassan, Professor Emeritus Institute of Infectious Diseases at the University of Khartoum, Sudan.

"Ideally, for patients with such conditions, we require oral treatment as it is being tested now, or drugs that actually new. But we are still difficult to achieve and working to find funding to get the drug," he said as quoted from Esciencenews, Monday (09/26/2011).

In March 2010, the Expert Committee constituted Leishmaniases Control World Health Organization (WHO) recommends SSG & AM as the first treatment of Kala Azar in East Africa.

This drug has been used to treat patients with Kala Azar in the Sudan and South Sudan. Other countries affected by Kala Azar is in the process of registration to be combined with SSG AM that is already registered.

"After 20 years, the WHO guideline update for the control of leishmaniasis. This shows that there is collaboration and greater progress. Now that these countries need support to implement it in the field," said Dr. Merce Herrero of Disease Prevention and Control division LEAP. 

SSG Development & AM is the result of a six-year collaborative partnership between the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), LEAP, and other partners including the National Control Programme Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda, as well as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and World Health Organization (WHO).

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