London: Scientists have identified an existing drug that is effective against Entamoeba histolytica, the parasite which causes amebic dysentery and liver abscesses and results in the death of more than 70,000 people worldwide each year.Using a high-throughput screen for drugs developed by them, a collaborative group of scientists from UC San Diego School of Medicine, UC San Francisco and Wake Forest School of Medicine discovered that auranofin – a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration 25 years ago for rheumatoid arthritis – is very effective in targeting an enzyme that protects amebae from oxygen attack (thus enhancing sensitivity of the amebae to reactive oxygen-mediated killing).The study was led by Sharon L. Reed, MD, professor in the UCSD Departments of Pathology and Medicine and James McKerrow, MD, PhD, professor of Pathology in the UCSF Sandler Center for Drug Discovery.Entamoeba histolytica is a protozoan intestinal parasite that causes human amebiasis, the world`s fourth leading cause of death from protozoan parasites. It is listed by the National Institutes of Health as a category B priority biodefense pathogen. Current treatment relies on metronidazole, which has adverse effects, and potential resistance to the drug is an increasing concern.
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