The European project STOP2030 (Stop Transmission Of intestinal Parasites) has received 4.3 million euros from the European Commission and the Swiss government to implement a novel co-formulation of a two-drug treatment against soil- transmitted helminths (STH), also known as intestinal worms, a great advance for a disease that affects 1.5 billion people, mostly in Africa and South East Asia, affecting most significatively growth and development in children. The project kick-off meeting will take place in Madrid, Spain, on the next 6th and 7th of July, bringing together experts from leading public research institutions, nonprofit organisations and pharmaceutical laboratories, all members of the STOP2030 Consortium.
The project is funded by the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking between the EU and the EDCTP Association (European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership), with contributions from the Swiss government. The uniqueness of the treatment developed by STOP2030 is that it combines in one pill two different drugs (albendazole and ivermectin) that are already approved for separate use, which have different mechanisms of action that together treat the 5 different worm species that cause STH with adequate safety and efficacy.
This will help control an endemic disease in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as other affected regions, that hinders people’s economic development as STH morbidity greatly impact on a person’s capacity to lead a normal work and school life. “There is a negative feedback loop between poverty and disease: the structural poverty due to lack of adequate sanitation and potable water are critical elements along with weak health systems,” explains Alejandro Krolewiecki, Principal Investigator and Scientific Coordinator of the project.
STOP2030 has a novel approach to STH that integrates a broad-spectrum treatment with the planning of an implementation strategy for long-term success. It involves having conversations with policy makers to ensure that the treatment can be widely used to help control infections and achieve the World Health Organization’s objective to reduce prevalence of moderate and heavy intensity below 2% in children by 2030, which would render the elimination of STH as a public health problem, as defined by WHO.
The project is a public-private partnership formed by the African institutions Ghana Health Service and the Kenya Medical Research Institute; and the European institutions Laboratorios Liconsa, Fundación Mundo Sano, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health,
Bridges for Development and Genome Research Limited. “Too often scientific collaborations between Africa and Europe have been about research organizations from the developed world implementing projects through partners in developing countries. We are excited to be turning this assumption upside down, with collaborators in Africa leading key parts of the work and the global North working as the supporting partners,” says Alan Brooks, Managing Partner from Bridges to Development.
The collaboration between the consortium partners is at the heart of the project, combining the experience and expertise in the affected countries with the funding and expertise from the EU. “We believe that this combination could improve the health and
wellbeing of millions around the world and want to ensure that the information to support its use reaches public health programmes in low and middle-income countries as soon as it is available,” says Julie Jacobson, Managing Partner from Bridges to Development.
STH are infections that affect the world’s poorest populations. The main cause of transmission is the exposure to soils, water and vegetables contaminated with eggs and larvae of these helminth parasites, as well as walking barefoot and poor access to hand hygiene. The five main STH species are roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale) and threadworms (Strongyloides stercoralis).
STH affects children and adults, and its signs and symptoms (anaemia, malnutrition, impaired physical and cognitive development, abdominal pain and diarrhoea) cause a high disease burden, estimated in 1.9 million disability-adjusted life years. This translates
to a massive loss of working capacity and school attendance and learning capacity, that directly affects people’s economic and social development.
STOP2030 is the continuation of the STOP project, which tested the co-formulation of the two drugs in three African countries in an Adaptive Phase II-III randomized clinical trial with successful results on over 1,100 children. The next steps of STOP2030 consist
of running the final stage of the clinical development for the registration by the European Medicines Agency through the EU-M4all program (formerly Article 58) and developing an implementation strategy for governments to include in mass drug administration programs.