Scientists at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego announced Thursday they’ve entered into a research collaboration with a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson to identify medications that combat Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that is the leading cause of heart failure in Latin America.
Under the agreement, Janssen Research & Development LLC will provide Skaggs dean Dr. James McKerrow with funding and access to a screening library of compounds. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“Chagas disease is known as a neglected tropical disease because of the lack of resources and attention dedicated to studying, preventing and treating it, especially considering the millions of people it affects,” McKerrow said. “We’re excited by Janssen R&D’s commitment to global public health, particularly for underserved populations, and this opportunity to work with them to take the neglect out of this neglected tropical disease.”
McKerrow said he and his research team will use a new robotic drug screening facility at the School of Pharmacy to test the thousands of Janssen R&D compounds for their ability to kill or inhibit Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 8 million people in Mexico, Central America, and South America have Chagas disease, most of whom do not know they are infected. If untreated, infection is lifelong and can be life-threatening.
The disease is spread to people and animals by insects, with most infections occurring in poverty-stricken rural areas. It’s often symptom-free, but one sign doctors look for is a swelling of the eyelid closest to the insect bite in which the disease is transmitted, the CDC said.
While Chagas is endemic in Latin America, it’s emerging in other regions of the world, including California, according to UCSD.
—City News Service
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