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UK researchers working to reduce treatments times for river blindness

A molecule that has the potential to more effectively target the cause of river blindness and elephantiasis will enter pre-clinical trials

Test tubes

UK researchers are developing a molecule that could improve treatment for river blindness – the second most common cause of blindness due to infection globally. 

Scientists from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Imperial College London describe the molecule in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It has been designed to more effectively target the cause of river blindness and elephantiasis, while potentially having fewer side effects.

The treatment is expected to work faster than existing drugs, killing the parasitic worms that feature in river blindness in less than a week.

The molecule targets the wolbachia bacteria that lives within the worms.

Professor Ed Tate, from Imperial College London, said the mechanism used by researchers is “unique.”

“By identifying this new target, we will reveal new insights into the bacteria-worm symbiosis,” he said.

“These insights could in turn be exploited to develop still more effective drugs against the worms,” Professor Tate added.