DNDi has been working hand in hand with partners worldwide for nearly two decades to propel medical innovation for people affected by leishmaniasis, a climate-sensitive neglected tropical disease that impacts over 1 million people every year.
Following years of investment in early-stage drug discovery, we have developed the world’s largest portfolio of promising new chemical entities to potentially treat leishmaniasis that we are now working to develop into safe, effective, and easy-to-use all-oral treatments.
From neglect to hope: Voices of leishmaniasis
In our new short film, Luke from Kenya, Shishu from India, and Juliana from Colombia share their hope for leishmaniasis: simple, oral treatments for their patients.
After years of neglect, 2022 saw some very good news for people with leishmaniasis due to new treatment options emerging in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
New WHO treatment guidelines for people living with visceral leishmaniasis and HIV
The World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines for the treatment of people co-infected with visceral leishmaniasis and HIV recommending a combination of the oral treatment miltefosine and LAmB as the new treatment course. This combination treatment was shown to have better efficacy rates in two clinical studies conducted in India by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and in Ethiopia by DNDi and supported by partners.
‘For the first time, patients with visceral leishmaniasis/HIV co-infection will be treated with evidence-based treatment. This is an important step towards recognising these patients as highly vulnerable both from a clinical and social perspective; improving their management will benefit both patients and the visceral leishmaniasis elimination programme.’Dr Sakib Burza, Medical Advisor and study coordinator, Médecins Sans Frontières
New recommendations for treating visceral leishmaniasis in Latin America
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) published new guidelines recommending a shorter and safer visceral leishmaniasis treatment for people in the Americas making it more accessible for people.
The change was based on evidence generated by a collaborative study sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of Health and coordinated by the University of Brasilia (UnB), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation of Brazil (Fiocruz), and DNDi.
‘These recommendations go hand in hand with DNDi’s strategy, which has promoted the need to replace antimonials as a first treatment option and recommend miltefosine instead, be it by itself or in combination with local therapies, which are safer for patients and less costly for health systems.’Joelle Rode, Clinical Manager for Leishmaniasis, DNDi
New results of a better, shorter combination treatment for people with visceral leishmaniasis in Eastern Africa
Published in the Clinical Infectious Disease Journal, the results of a study conducted with our partners in Eastern Africa showed that the combination treatment miltefosine + paromomycin is over 91% effective in treating visceral leishmaniasis. This new treatment is safer, reduces the number of toxic daily injections and hospitalization time, and is therefore more patient-friendly.
‘The new combination treatment signifies a historical step forward for dreadfully neglected patient populations. After many decades we have finally included an oral treatment to the regimen.’Dr Monique Wasunna, Eastern Africa Director, DNDi
In August, we joined with researchers, clinicians, and advocates from around the globe at WorldLeish7 in Cartagena, Colombia to take stock of our shared progress and rally the attention and commitment still needed to control and eliminate leishmaniasis in all its forms.
Research to find better treatments continues
While working in the short term to improve the safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of leishmaniasis treatments with existing drugs, our ultimate objective for leishmaniasis is to develop new oral treatments that are safe and effective for children and all adults, including pregnant women. We are pleased to count on the renewed support of Wellcome to continue the development of promising oral new chemical entities to treat leishmaniasis.
To end the neglect of leishmaniasis, we’re also looking into ways to boost access to existing treatments, notably through the LeishAccess project that was launched in 2022. Supported by EDCTP and in collaboration with Ministries of Health and partner institutions from Eastern Africa, the three-year project aims to improve access to care for leishmaniasis patients in the region, including vulnerable groups, for the various forms of the disease.
Photo credits: Rowan Pybus-DNDi, University of Gondar, Sydelle Willow Smith-DNDi