Washington: Memantine, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's, can also prove effective in treating Chagas, a tropical disease, a new study has found.
The drugs currently used to treat Chagas disease, have serious side effects and limited use in those with chronic disease. However, researchers have found that memantine can diminish the number of parasites in mice infected with Chagas disease, and also increase the survival rate of the animals.
The findings of this study were published in the Journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Chagas can be divided into acute and chronic phases, with the clinical phase causing heart, esophagus or intestinal symptoms.
The two drugs that have been used to treat Chagas for the last 50 years -- nifurtimox and benznidazole -- are highly effective in the acute phase but used sparingly in the chronic phase due to serious side effects that occur with long-term treatment.
Researchers, in this work, studied memantine, which works on the central nervous system of animals but has also been shown to kill protozoa.
They first studied the effect of different concentrations of memantine on cultured macrophages -- a type of white blood cell -- that were infected with T. cruzi. Next, they tested the drug in T. cruzi-infected mice.
They found that memantine reduced the number of T. cruzi-infected macrophages in a dose-dependent way; more drug led to a greater reduction in the infection.
In mice with Chagas disease, memantine lowered levels of the parasite by 40 per cent and increased survival rates from 7.5 per cent to 12.5 per cent.
Not only this, but the mice treated with memantine also had 35.3 per cent lower parasite levels in their hearts compared to control animals.
"All these findings point memantine as an interesting starting point for the development of an optimised alternative therapy for Chagas disease," the researchers suggested.