Research and development (R&D) project, AfriCoLeish, is supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (EU FP7) through a grant of -3 million. The project will run for three years and aims to test new treatments for kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis, or VL) and co-infection of the disease with HIV in Ethiopia and Sudan.
The AfricoLeish project, 'Care Package for Treatment and Control of Visceral Leishmaniasis in East Africa', aims to develop and deliver a shorter combination treatment for kala-azar patients that is equally as safe and effective as the current WHO-recommended first-line treatment for the disease (SSG&PM, sodium stibogluconate and paromomycin) in East Africa. The project also aims to determine appropriate treatment strategies for kala-azar in patients that are also HIV positive, in order to treat and also prevent repetitive relapses that are common in co-infected patients.
Kala-azar (VL) is fatal if left untreated. An estimated 300,000 cases occur per year in 70 endemic countries. Estimates suggest 30,000 new cases per year in Africa, with numbers rising sharply during an epidemic. Existing monotherapies are toxic, costly, and difficult to administer, and the treatment duration is long, requiring extended hospital stays. Efficacious and cost-effective treatments as well as prevention of relapse play a critical role in the reduction of disease reservoir, forming a vital part of disease control. In addition, co-infection of kala-azar and HIV is a growing problem and renders treatment more difficult for both diseases.
'While we have managed to deliver a new first-line treatment for kala-azar in East Africa, sodium stibogluconate combined with paromomycin, SSG&PM, we need to continue searching for shorter, safer treatments', said Dr Monique Wasunna, Head of DNDi Africa and one of the four principal investigators of the AfriCoLeish project. 'Through a randomized clinical trial in Eastern Africa, the project will, for the first time, provide conclusive evidence-based data on the WHO recommendation to treat kala-azar/HIV co-infected patients using Ambisome 40 mg/kg total dose, and on the locally used regimen of AmBisome 30mg/kg in combination with miltefosine that is used by MSF in Ethiopia. To do this, AfriCoLeish has the right partners all focused on a clear goal: neglected patients' needs', she added.