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Benznidazole May Be Effective for Chronic Chagas Disease

In unblinded study, drug reduces disease progression in non-acute cases without heart failure

WEDNESDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Benznidazole is more effective than no treatment for chronic Chagas disease in patients without heart failure, according to a study published in the May 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Rodolfo Viotti, M.D., of the Hospital Interzonal General de Agudos Eva Peron in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and colleagues conducted an unblinded, non-randomized study of 566 patients at a Chagas disease center who had three positive serologic tests and had not had heart failure. Half the patients were given oral benznidazole at 5 mg/kg of bodyweight per day for 30 days, while half were given no treatment.

Among the treated patients, 12 (4 percent) progressed to the next stage of the disease, compared with 40 (14 percent) of the untreated group. In all, 32 out of 218 (15 percent) of treated patients had conversion to negative results on serologic testing, versus 12 out of 212 (6 percent) of untreated patients.

"Our results suggest that benznidazole treatment for patients with indeterminate- and chronic-stage Chagas disease may decrease the risk for disease progression," the authors write. "Benznidazole treatment was associated with…an increased rate of negative seroconversion without serious side effects. These observations indicate that a randomized, controlled trial should be performed," they conclude.

In an accompanying editorial, Joao Carlos Pinto Dias, M.D., Ph.D., of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, notes that benznidazole is the only drug currently available for Chagas disease, but that it has significant drawbacks. "It is valid to use it and to experiment with new formulations, schedules and indications, but we must continue to search for a more efficient and safe drug," he writes.

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