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Monday, 17 June, 2002, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
India first to get black fever drug
WHO chief Gro Harlem Bruntland immunising a child in India
The new drug will be released in July

The World Health Organisation says a new drug has been developed to treat so-called black fever, which kills 60,000 people a year.

WHO headquarters in Geneva
The WHO has sponsored the new drug

The new drug, Miltefosine, is thought to be 95% effective and will be first used in India, which has about 50% of the world's cases of black fever.

Visceral leishmaniasis or black fever affects 500, 000 people every year.

The disease is transmitted through the bite of the sandfly and attacks the liver and spleen, causing irregular bouts of fever and substantial weight loss.

People in developing countries are particularly susceptible to the disease, 90% of all cases occur in India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Nepal and Sudan.

Where its left untreated, the disease always proves fatal.

Related infections

According to the World Health Organization, co-infections of black fever and HIV are becoming much more common.

Although there are some medicines available to treat the disease, many of the current medicines used are toxic and can cause permanent damage such as diabetes.

Some 60% of patients in India have become resistant to one drug and others are simply too expensive to use.

But now scientists have developed a new drug which is cheaper and more effective than all currently available treatments for black fever.

Miltefosine is the product of a German pharmaceutical company and has been sponsored by the WHO and the World Bank.

From July, the drug will be in use in India, where the government there now hopes to eradicate the disease within the next eight years.

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09 Nov 01 | Health
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