Biological and Health Sciences

Global Network of neglected diseases

CONICET researchers who work on Chagas disease were recognized as part of an international consortium by which they received special founding to continue developing drugs against this disease.

IDIM, Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology. Photo: Courtesy researcher.

Since 2018, the ‘Global Network of neglected diseases’ has been formed jointly by 46 laboratories from India, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Claudio A. Pereira, CONICET principal researcher at the Institute for Medical Research “Alfredo Lanari” (IDIM, CONICET-UBA), and his research team of Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology participate in this network. Other CONICET researchers that are part of this initiative are: Guillermo Labadie, and Julia Cricco, who work at the Institute for Chemistry Rosario (IQUIR, CONICET-UNR), and at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology of Rosario (IBR, CONICET-UNR) respectively.

Their studies were selected to obtain additional funding of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a British program that provides funds for research work in developing countries.

“The aim of the Network is to study two diseases: in South America, Chagas and the rest of the network focused on leishmaniasis. The central idea is to develop drugs, train human resources and establish a bond with the industry to produce drugs for neglected diseases,” Pereira explains.

At the IDIM, scientists are working on transport of metabolite of Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes the Chagas disease. These transporters are present in the membrane and help the parasite to incorporate metabolites into the host.

“The parasite takes out the metabolites from the host instead of spending energy in producing them. In this context, some are essential, so if the parasite does not incorporate them from outside, it dies.”

Pereira and the research teams at the Laboratory of Molecular Parasitology have work on this subject for years. They focused first on finding the ‘entrance door’ of the metabolites to the parasites. Then, they test different drugs that can block these ‘doors’ and disable them so that the parasite dies as it cannot feed on these metabolites.

As part of this international collaborative work, the drugs that have been tested are exchanged with other research teams that analyze leishmaniasis, as they are two related diseases. At the IDIM, conversely, the drugs for leishmaniasis will be tested for Chagas.

In the framework of this interaction,  Chantal Reigada, CONICET postdoctoral fellow, plays an intermediary role with India to provide her experience on Chagas at the laboratory of that country. Besides, Melisa Sayé, member of the IDIM research team of CONICET and current Postdoctoral fellow of GCRF, is in charge of the development of drugs in Argentina with Mariana Miranda and Edward Valera-Vera.