DISEASES

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MALARIA

Malaria has been a scourge for centuries and remains a major disease of the world. WHO estimates that there are more than 200 million cases of malaria worldwide. Malaria is responsible for nearly half-a-million deaths each year, 7 out of 10 occurring among children under the age of 5. Besides, unless promptly and effectively dealt with, malaria has long-lasting consequences from prolonged illness, especially for children, causing on-going anemia, weakness and cognitive problems. And cerebral malaria, invasion of brain tissue, can cause changes in consciousness or seizures, and without effective treatment the disease usually progresses to coma or death.

Malaria is caused by organisms from the Plasmodium species of the phylum Apicomplexans. Existing therapies have poorly understood mechanisms of action and are turning out to be resistant with prolonged use. This is unfortunately true even for artemisinin, currently the primary therapy for malaria. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop drugs against a target that is a vital part of the Plasmodium function, is essential at multiple stages of parasite infection, and is mechanistically well understood.

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TOXOPLASMOSIS

Toxoplasmosis affects one-third of the human population and is the 2nd leading cause of foodborne-related deaths in the USA and the 4th leading cause of foodborne-related hospitalizations in the USA. Apart from infecting humans, these parasites infect livestock and cause significant economic losses.

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CRYPTOSPORIDIOSIS

Cryptosporidiosis is a widely prevalent and leading cause of waterborne disease in the USA. It includes severe gastrointestinal problems in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised individuals. Between 2009 and 2017, cryptosporidium outbreaks in the USA increased by 13% annually. As of 2015, there is only one drug approved for its treatment.

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CHAGAS DISEASE (AMERICAN TRYPANOSOMIASIS)

Chagas disease (‘American Trypanosomiasis’) is a major economic burden with global costs of $7.1 billion per annum. It is being increasingly detected in the USA, Canada, and European and Western Pacific countries due to population mobility. Eight million people are infected worldwide, and there are more than 10,000 deaths per year from Chagas. One-third of chronically infected people develop cardiac issues, and 10% develop digestive, neurological or mixed issues. The chronic stage of this disease affects the nervous system, digestive system, and the heart, causing dilated cardiomyopathy. The rapid worldwide spread of HIV gave rise to the emergence of T. cruzi/HIV co-infections.

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LEISHMANIASIS

Leishmaniasis currently affects 6 million people in 98 countries, with approximately 1 million new cases each year. It is endemic to South and Central Americas, and is now found in Texas, Southern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. It occurs in cutaneous and visceral forms in humans, with the visceral form being fatal.