Anti-malarial drug potential for rheumatic fever

Anti-malarial drug potential for rheumatic fever

Illuminate newsletter index page, March 2019
March 2019

Professor Ian Wicks
Professor Ian Wicks led the study that found an existing
drug may be repurposed to reduce damage to the heart
that can occur from rheumatic fever.

The Institute has a long-term commitment to the reconciliation agenda, and our research is inclusive of projects that contribute to closing the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal people suffer from some of the highest rates of acute rheumatic fever in the world.

Acute rheumatic fever is an auto-immune reaction to an infection with the bacterium group A streptococcus. Repeated episodes can lead to rheumatic heart disease and chronic damage to the valves of the heart.

New avenues for treatment

A recently published study – led by Institute Professor Ian Wicks in conjunction with the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin – explored how the autoimmune response of patients with acute rheumatic fever becomes dysregulated by group A streptococcus.

The results have opened up several exciting avenues for future research, including identifying the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential therapy to reduce the risk of progression to rheumatic heart disease.

Professor Wicks said hydroxychloroquine was relatively inexpensive and its safety profile well established, making it a particularly attractive adjunctive therapy in addition to secondary prevention measures.

“We hope this research will encourage clinical trials in hydroxychloroquine to reduce rheumatic heart disease.”

Super Content: 
Dr Laura Dagley in a laboratory

Dr Laura Dagley is developing a blood test to improve how we detect acute rheumatic fever, a condition that is prevalent in Aboriginal communities and that can cause life-threatening heart disease.

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