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Biological factors that impinge on Chagas disease drug development



Chagas disease is caused by infection with the insect-transmitted protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, and is the most important parasitic infection in Latin America. The current drugs, benznidazole and nifurtimox, are characterized by limited efficacy and toxic side-effects, and treatment failures are frequently observed. The urgent need for new therapeutic approaches is being met by a combined effort from the academic and commercial sectors, together with major input from not-for-profit drug development consortia. With the disappointing outcomes of recent clinical trials against chronic Chagas disease, it has become clear that an incomplete understanding of parasite biology and disease pathogenesis is impacting negatively on the development of more effective drugs. In addition, technical issues, including difficulties in establishing parasitological cure in both human patients and animal models, have greatly complicated the assessment of drug efficacy. Here, we outline the major questions that need to be addressed and discuss technical innovations that can be exploited to accelerate the drug development pipeline.

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*Corresponding author: Department of Pathogen Molecular Biology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK. E-mail:


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