Call edition 2012

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Experimental therapy of African trypanosomiasis with a nanobody-conjugated human trypanolytic factor

Toya Nath BARAL researcher laureate

°1968 Nepal
Bachelor in Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, 1994

Experimental therapy of African trypanosomiasis with a nanobody-conjugated human trypanolytic factor

African trypanosomiasis is caused by single-cell parasites that affect blood and tissue. In humans the disease – better known as sleeping sickness – is caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and T.b. rhodesiense. In cattle, goats, sheep, camels, buffalo, horses and wild animals diseases such as nagana and surra are caused by T.b. brucei, T. congolense T. vivax and T. evansi. These parasites are transmitted by tsetse flies and other blood-feeding biting flies. Only T. equiperdum (dourine) is transmitted sexually in horses. African trypanosomiases are a major hindrance to the agrarian development of sub-Saharan Africa and perpetuate the poverty of the rural population over there. Both vaccine and prophylaxis are lacking. Existing drugs are highly toxic and resistance is a growing problem in combating animal trypanosomiases.
In his research Dr Baral has been able to call on two exceptional scientific findings by Belgian research groups. Firstly, the discovery of the human apolipoprotein A as a lytic factor that prevents some Trypanosoma species from infecting humans. By genetic manipulation a truncated Apol-1 can be produced that also kills T.b. rhodesiense. Secondly, there is the discovery of a particular type of antibody in camelids. Genetic manipulation can also produce short protein fragments that have the antigen-binding properties of ordinary antibodies but are so small that they can reach targets that ordinary antibodies cannot (nanobodies). Dr Baral has combined both molecules in an original way to develop a new generation of drugs against African trypanosomiases. This strategy has led to the development of a drug, albeit an experimental one. It is hoped that similar drugs can also be developed that will be effective in other pathologies. In this way the research can contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction in the South. The scientific value of Dr Baral’s research is exceptionally high, as is illustrated by its publication in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine.

Report: Prof. P. Büscher, Department of Parasitology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium