Twenty diseases are recognized as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by World Health Assembly resolutions, including human filarial diseases. The end of NTDs is embedded within the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, under target 3.3. Onchocerciasis afflicts approximately 20.9 million people worldwide with>90% of those infected residing in Africa. Control programs have made tremendous efforts in the management of onchocerciasis by mass drug administration and aerial larviciding; however, disease elimination is not yet achieved. In the new WHO roadmap, it is recognized that new drugs or drug regimens that kill or permanently sterilize adult filarial worms would significantly improve elimination timelines and accelerate the achievement of the program goal of disease elimination. Drug development is, however, handicapped by high attrition rates, and many promising molecules fail in preclinical development or in subsequent toxicological, safety and efficacy testing; thus, research and development (R&D) costs are, in aggregate, very high. Drug discovery and development for NTDs is largely driven by unmet medical needs put forward by the global health community; the area is underfunded and since no high return on investment is possible, there is no dedicated drug development pipeline for human filariasis. Repurposing existing drugs is one approach to filling the drug development pipeline for human filariasis. The high cost and slow pace of discovery and development of new drugs has led to the repurposing of “old” drugs, as this is more cost-effective and allows development timelines to be shortened. However, even if a drug is marketed for a human or veterinary indication, the safety margin and dosing regimen will need to be re-evaluated to determine the risk in humans. Drug repurposing is a promising approach to enlarging the pool of active molecules in the drug development pipeline. Another consideration when providing new treatment options is the use of combinations and de novo discovery from medicinal plants. My talk will summarize recent advances in the late preclinical or early clinical stage in the search for a potent macroflaricide, including drugs against the nematode and against its endosymbiont, Wolbachia pipientis.
Audience take away:
- Explain how the audience will be able to use what they learn?
- The different onchocerciasis animal models used to assess the efficacy of drugs
- The two arms of onchocerciasis drug research; direct (against the adult worm and microfilariae) and indirect (against the endosymbiont, Wolbachia pipientis)
- Knowledge of drugs under development which will aid in achieving elimination targets