Vaccine developed to fight black fever
Apr 25, 2006 - 8:37:37 PM

Swiss scientists have developed a vaccine that could protect animals and humans from Leishmaniasis, or black fever, a parasitic disease that kills about 60,000 people a year.

Leishmaniasis, spread by the bite of the sandfly, attacks the spleen, bone marrow and liver and destroys the immune system. Untreated, it is nearly always fatal.

No vaccine yet exists for the disease that affects 500,000 people worldwide each year - mostly in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan and Brazil.

The vaccine, designed by researchers at the Laboratory for Organic Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, uses synthetic forms of carbohydrates taken from the parasite or bacteria responsible for the disease.

Laboratory studies have shown that the possible vaccine designed by the team produces a protective action against Leishmaniasis, stimulating the patient's own immune system, reported the online edition of BBC News.

The Swiss team is now moving on towards testing the vaccine on animals.

However, they say the vaccine development is in an early stage. Animal tests will take two years and pre-clinical trials another two to three years. A final vaccine is at least five years off, one researcher said.

Among common symptoms of the disease are lesions on the skin, persistent fever, night sweats, fatigue, weakness, appetite loss, vomiting and diarrhoea in children and cough.

There are about half a million new cases of visceral Leishmaniasis occurring each year.

The disease currently does not have any effective treatment. The most common drugs used to treat the disease have serious side effects and are expensive.

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