Unitaid and the Brazilian Ministry of Health have joined together in a USD 19 million project to improve diagnostic technologies, treatment, and comprehensive care for women and newborns living with Chagas disease in four Latin American countries where the disease is endemic: Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, and Brazil.
The initiative will be conducted by the Chagas Consortium, led by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), and will receive technical and scientific support from DNDi. The project, called CUIDA Chagas, involves a combination of implementation research and innovation protocols aimed at contributing to the elimination of congenital Chagas transmission. This is the first time that Unitaid has allocated resources for the response to this neglected disease. The CUIDA Chagas project can be replicated in other countries in the region.
Chagas is a neglected tropical disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. It affects about six to seven million people worldwide, and seventy million people are estimated to be at risk of infection. Chagas disease causes more than 14,000 deaths every year in Latin America, more than any other parasitic disease.
‘An estimated two million women of childbearing age are infected with Chagas disease all over the world, and around 10% of them will transmit the disease to their children. By providing improved diagnostic tools and better treatments, we can save future generations from this silent disease,’ stated Dr Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of Unitaid, who participated at the launch of the initiative organized last week by Fiocruz, as part of World Chagas Disease Day commemorations.
Congenital Chagas disease is a priority in the World Health Organization’s Neglected Tropical Disease Roadmap (NTD Roadmap 2021-2030), but many countries still lack adequate programmes to address this mode of disease transmission.
For DNDi, this international collaboration builds on our studies with a shorter benznidazole treatment, which, after showing good efficacy and safety results in the Phase II clinical trial BENDITA, will continue to a phase III clinical trial taking place in Colombia, Brazil, and Bolivia with the support of Unitaid. The treatment will also be evaluated in Argentina, by a partnership between DNDi, Laboratorio ELEA PHOENIX, and the Mundo Sano Foundation.
‘This research brings hope to people with Chagas disease, since shorter treatments may reduce the adverse effects which, in many cases, lead to treatment withdrawal,’ reflects Dr Sergio Sosa Estani, Head of the Chagas Disease Clinical Programme at DNDi.
Photo credit: Ana Ferreira-DNDi