Rhodes University researchers on quest to find new ways to treat trichomoniasis

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The Division of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Head of Section, Professor Setshaba David Khanye.
The Division of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Head of Section, Professor Setshaba David Khanye.

Rhodes University’s Drug Discovery and Pharmaceutical Research Lab has partnered with Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to find a potential treatment for the infectious disease, trichomoniasis.

The Research Lab, based in the Faculty of Pharmacy, submitted a proposal to access the CSIR compound library to help with the research of new treatments of trichomoniasis, which was granted recently. The Division of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Head of Section, Professor Setshaba David Khanye, said there is a real need to search for alternative new compounds to serve as good quality starting points towards the treatment of this disease.

“Globally, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a major cause of serious illnesses. Human trichomoniasis, a non-viral disease that is caused by protozoan parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis, is reported to cause more than 160 million infections each year. Our motivation is that, unlike other STIs, trichomoniasis is receiving less attention, despite its associated risks. Problems associated with this disease include: premature birth, low birth weight, and contribution to the acquisition of HIV. Of significant importance to us is that metronidazole is the only preferred drug that is currently effective for treatment of T. vaginalis infections, yet it is subject to drug resistance and there is no well-established alternative therapy available. Additionally, the research efforts directed to the identification of alternative new molecules for treating trichomoniasis remain inadequate,” he said.

Prof Khanye acknowledged that the process will be lengthy and expensive and he said there are no immediate solutions, but he is hoping for a long-term benefit for ordinary people. He said this research will put Rhodes University in a strategic position as an institution with a strong platform in drug discovery and biomedical research in infectious diseases. “The programme will run for a period of two years. In the first year, our group will be given access to a mini-library representing the full programme library. In the subsequent year, the access will be extended to grant us permission to screen the full library of 20,000 compounds,” he added.

He said he is delighted that they are collaborating with CSIR through the South African Medical Research Council and Department of Science and Innovation considering that access to high quality starting compounds is a serious bottleneck in drug discovery of small molecules intended for infectious diseases. He referred to the partnership as a strategic partnership for a common goal.