Treating Toxoplasmosis

While one company hikes the price of an old drug to treat the parasitic infection, academic researchers report that an approved blood pressure medication could be just what the doctor ordered.

By Jef Akst | September 25, 2015

Toxoplasma gondiiFLICKR, MICHAEL WUNDERLITuring Pharmaceuticals made headlines last week after raising the price of its recently acquired Daraprim, a drug used primarily to treat the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis, from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Company founder and chief executive Martin Shkreli claimed the monumental price increase will support research into a new and improved drug for the disease, which can cause life-threatening illness in people with compromised immune systems and in babies born to women infected during pregnancy. “We needed to turn a profit on this drug,” he told Bloomberg last week (September 21). “We’re spending tens of millions of dollars to make a better version of Daraprim.”

But even before Shkreli became national news for justifying the Daraprim price hike, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine and University of Notre Dame reported a possible alternative treatment for toxoplasmosis: a well-established hypertension drug. Working in mice, the team showed that the drug, known as guanabenz, was effective against the latent cyst stage of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which hides out in the brain where it is protected from the body’s immune system and existing anti-parasitic drugs.

“This finding was a big surprise and a potentially very important discovery,” study coauthor Bill Sullivan, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the IU School of Medicine, said in a statement last week (September 21). “There are few reports of pharmacological agents that have an effect on the latent stage of toxoplasmosis.” The researchers published their results online in August in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

And because guanabenz is already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treating high blood pressure, it could be quickly repurposed for toxoplasmosis patients, Sullivan added. “The fact that this drug is already FDA-approved makes this great news.”

Sullivan and his collaborators also demonstrated that guanabenz inhibited replication of the malaria parasite, which is related to the organism that causes toxoplasmosis. The researchers are now further exploring guanabenz’s mechanism of action.

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Avatar of: dumbdumb


Posts: 99

September 26, 2015

This would be the perfect slap in the face to the lying little p**ck!

Too bad, it probably is to good to be true

Avatar of: wctopp


Posts: 110

September 28, 2015

There is some evidence that Crazy Cat Lady Disease (CCLD) does, in fact, affect judgement.  People with T. gondii cysts in their brains tend to be risk takers.  Earlier this year some Mexican people reported that they find that 10% of brains at autopsy have T. gondii.  If you come up with a drug to treat and cure CCLD and change the risk-taking profile of 10% of the country this may have consequences.  Aside from maybe engaging in some unsafe activity there's no real downside to CCLD so if guanabenz pans out maybe we need to have a discussion about when and in whom it will be used.

Avatar of: PastToTheFuture


Posts: 112

September 29, 2015

I figure it should be a  requirement for running for public office that the candidate be tested for Toxoplasmosis and treated if infected.

Avatar of: MaryMartin


Posts: 1

June 8, 2016

I wonder why this was not publicized more. It's a better treatment than daraprim if it treats toxo in its active and latent stages. 

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