Date of release: Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Global efforts to find a cure for African Animal Trypanosomiasis (AAT), also known as Nagana, a disease transmitted by tsetse flies which kills millions of cattle every year in sub-Saharan Africa, have entered an important new stage after scientists at the University of Greenwich at Medway teamed up with the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed), a non-profit organisation based in Scotland.

Clinical trials have just begun on the project following the work of the scientists at the university's Medway Centre for Pharmaceutical Science. The project is being undertaken with funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID).

The scale of the challenge is enormous as AAT is endemic in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, an area 100 times the size of the UK. The disease is transmitted when an infected tsetse fly bites an animal infecting it with the parasite. If left untreated, it leads to fatality.

While reported cases of trypanosomiasis in humans, also known as sleeping sickness, have decreased, the economic impact of the disease continues to ravage communities in Africa because the disease in cattle, a vital source of wealth, milk and traction power for millions of people in the region, causes not only death but major production losses.

The team from the University of Greenwich is led by Professor John Mitchell and Professor Steve Wicks, based within the Faculty of Engineering & Science, with support from three post doctorate students. As part of their work they are developing new injectable formulations for the treatment of Nagana.

Professor Mitchell says: "The disease has massive implications for food security and viability of many communities in this region as healthy livestock provide cash to pay for education, healthcare and food."

"The challenge for the Medway team of scientists has been to assess the individual performance of the biologically-active pharmaceutical ingredients, develop a formulation for further testing in cattle, and then optimise the dose. Given that the work is being undertaken in areas of extreme heat we also needed to ensure that the product was stable and not inactivated by high temperatures when dispensing treatment to the cattle."

Working in collaboration with world-leading biotechnology companies and other international scientists, coordinated through GALVmed, the team at Medway has begun the next stage of testing as part of its work on the research, development and testing of medications to treat AAT.

Professor Wicks adds: "We are immensely proud to be part of the team working on the project and are positive this project will enable vets to not only treat the disease in cattle but also to prevent it spreading in the future."

The Medway Centre for Pharmaceutical Science is an internationally-recognised centre of excellence in the areas of discovery and development of formulations for new medicines from the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.

Identification of a novel approach to treatment after field trials will enhance the limited range of products currently available to treat the disease.

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Story by Public Relations