What is it about?

Even in South America, invasive fire ants have spread beyond their original natural range. This study is focused on the venom of the red invasive fire ant collected in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Whole fire ant nests were subjected to solvent extraction of venom, followed by purification of alkaloid toxins. The alkaloids prove effective in disrupting the microbial causer of Chaga's disease in vitro, comparably effective as commercial drugs.

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Why is it important?

Natural products are the origin of our most effective drugs. Treating parasitic diseases in the 3rd world is a challenge that affects human development. Chaga's disease is a serious chronic disease that makes millions of victims in Latin America, especially in Brazil, and treatment drugs have been less than ideal. These nicotinoid alkaloids which are unique in fire ant venoms may be the prototypes for more effective and cheaper drugs against Chagas' disease, and potentially against the Sleeping Sickness and related illnesses.

Perspectives

This is a project that took longer than expected to complete, due to intrinsic difficulties. Nonetheless we believe the experimental trends are clear, and other colleagues will perceive the therapeutic potential of these and related natural alkaloids, and expand on toxicological tests and bioassays towards designing viable analogues for treating this disease.

Dr Eduardo G P Fox
IBCCF / UFRJ

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This page is a summary of: Venom alkaloids against Chagas disease parasite: search for effective therapies, Scientific Reports, June 2020, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-67324-8.
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