Ugandan doctor Amos Nyathirombo is celebrating a scientific milestone after a six-year World Health Organisation-led research he co-participated in found a more effective River Blindness drug. The United States Food and Drug Administration agency announced last Saturday that it had approved Moxidectin 8 mg Oral for the treatment of River Blindness in patients aged 12 years or older. This followed a break-through by Dr Nyathirombo and 18 other doctors in four African countries who found that Moxidectin, previously a veterinary medicine, was more effective in treating River Blindness than Ivermectin which is in common use. Their findings were published in the respected medical journal, Lancet, in January, this year. The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Bank, the United Nations- Development Programme (UNDP) and WHO Special Programme for Research and Training Tropical Diseases financed the study. “As an individual, I am very happy for my contribution in developing medicine for mankind,” Dr Nyathirombo, a lecturer in the department of Ophthalmology at Gulu University, told Daily Monitor by telephone yesterday. He added: “This drug was being used as a veterinary drug to de-worm domestic animals, but when we realised that it could help treat River Blindness, we decided to take to the laboratory for further studies.” Their study conducted in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Ghana compared the efficacy and effectiveness of Ivermectin and Moxidectin and discovered that the latter killed the River Blindness worms in the eyes and skin faster in humans. River Blindness is caused by a parasitic worm, Onchocerca volvulus. The disease manifests as severe itching, disfiguring skin conditions and visual impairment, including permanent blindness, caused by the worm’s larvae (microfilariae), according to WHO. Dr Nyathirombo said yesterday the new drug manufactured by US pharmaceutical company, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals will help Uganda to eliminate River Blindness earlier than the 2020 target year.


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