A widely used remedy for menstrual pain – mefenamic acid (trade name Ponstan) – can be effective in the treatment of schistosomiasis. The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Guarulhos who studied the repositioning of drugs, ie. new applications for existing substances. After undergoing laboratory and animal studies, clinical trials in humans are lacking, so anti-inflammatory drugs can also be prescribed to fight worms.
The study found that Ponstan reduced the parasite load by more than 80% in mice infected with Schistosoma mansoni. According to the researchers, this percentage exceeds the "gold standard" set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for new drugs. There is currently only one remedy for the treatment of schistosomiasis, praziquantel. The effect of mefenamic acid may be even greater than the available antiparasite because it also acted in the larval phase of the parasite.
Schistosomiasis affects more than 240 million people worldwide, according to WHO data. Professor Josué de Moraes from the University of Guarulho points out that this is a neglected disease, and although it affects a significant proportion of people, more advanced studies, vaccines and treatments are lacking. “We are talking about poverty diseases. The pharmaceutical industry, when you look at this audience, does not want to develop a new drug, ”said the study author.
According to Moraes, the production of a new drug involves at least 1.5 billion years of research, and since the disease mainly affects the poor, there is no interest from the pharmaceutical industry. “The benefit of placing again [de fármaco] is that it is already something that is already approved, already exists in pharmacies, and if we can find that this drug has a different use than what was used, I will eliminate this time and cost, ”explained teacher.
The study of drug repositioning developed at the University of Guarulhos began with the analysis of 73 non-steroids marketed in Brazil and other countries. Mefenamic acid showed the most promising results as antiparasitic. The discovery, which was supported by the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp), was published in the Lancet group's magazine EbioMedicine.
Transmission of schistosomiasis is linked to sites without adequate sanitation and by water contact with snails infected by the disease-causing worms. Schistosoma mansoni worms lodge in the veins of the patient's mesentery and liver. The infected person has no symptoms within the first two weeks, but the condition can develop and cause chronic health problems and death.
Moraes points out that once human clinical trials have been started, if the efficacy of Ponstan for schistosomiasis has been demonstrated before leaflets can be changed within a year, treatment is recommended. “It takes an area where you have people with the disease and receive treatment and monitoring of the healing process. The only step back now is this. All the research needed to develop medicine has been carried out, ”he explained.
edition: José Romildo