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The newest antiprotozoan agent on the horizon may be allopurinol, an oral xanthine oxidase inhibitor already widely used clinically for treating hyperuricemia. So far, it has been shown to be effective in culture against species of Leishmania and against Trypanosoma cruzi.
Investigators say the drug works because these protozoa have a fatal flaw—unique enzyme systems that transform allopurinol into a toxic adenine analogue.
J. Joseph Marr, MD, of St Louis concedes that leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis are likely to be diagnosed only in newcomers to the United States. But he points out that they "affect several hundred million people around the world and are two of the five diseases that the World Health Organization says are in most urgent need of attention."
Marr is director, Section of Infectious Diseases, in the Department of Medicine at St Louis University School of Medicine. His interest in exploring the antiprotozoan effects of allopurinol began
Gunby P. Allopurinol treatment for protozoan infections? JAMA. 1978;240(18):1941–1942. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290180015005
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