The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ugandan Ministry of Health are unveiling a new drug to treat advanced sleeping sickness. The new drug is a combination of eflornithine and nifurtimox have been in clinical trials since 2003.

According to Dr. Jose Franco, a medical officer with the Neglected Tropical Diseases department at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, “Our findings have shown that this treatment is effective and much easier to apply, unlike the old one that needed a lot of care, staff and logistics.”

Currently, Melarsoprol is the drug of choice for late disease sleeping sickness with central nervous system involvement. It must be administered on an inpatient basis, preferably in a ICU.

Melarsoprol is arsenic based and reactive encephalopathies occur in up to 10 percent of treatments which usually end in death. In addition, melarsoprol has treatment failure rates of up to 30 percent.

African sleeping sickness is caused by two species of the parasite, Trypanosoma, and is transmitted to humans through the bite of a tse tse fly.

Dr. Charles Wamboga, an official from the National Sleeping Sickness Control Programme says that the treatment is being given freely, courtesy of the donations from Sanofi-Aventis and Bayer pharmaceutical companies that produce the medicines.