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100 Years Old Medicine to Treat Foot Ulcers in Diabetic Patients

Suramin a century-old medicine that is a typical treatment of sleep-related sickness. But it has now been repurposed to treat the oral mucositis and foot ulcers in people with diabetes.

Suramin was first developed to treat the African sleeping sickness (African trypanosomiasis) and river blindness disease. Considering its effectiveness, it has been tested against a number of other diseases even cancer, and it has shown promising results.

This new breakthrough study conducted by the researchers from the University of Arizona in collaboration with Keith Kirkwood, Centennial Endowed Chair and professor of oral biology in the UB School of Dental Medicine, has revealed the new potential of this old drug. It would open a new way to treat the painful foot ulcers especially common in people with diabetes.

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Suramin is injected into the patient’s body. And it works best when it is used during the primary stages of the infection as it completely eradicates the disease by attacking and killing the parasite in blood and lymph nodes. In later stages, the parasite usually makes its way to the spinal fluid and hence difficult to treat.

The existing treatments of diabetic foot ulcers are not 100% effective, extremely painful, or invasive, which is why many people don’t even get treatment for them.

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Foot ulcers are extremely common in diabetic people and it shows a poorly managed disease. The ulcer forms when the skin tissue breaks down and exposes the inner layers of the skin. The most problematic areas for ulcers on feet are under the toes and balls of the feet.

Although these foot ulcers are not taken seriously, but not just the skin cells, these ulcers can even reach to the bone and infect it. It all starts with foot pain which is impossible to identify at first, especially if a person is newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Kirkwood says that these early studies on `Suramin’ were to check its potential on oral mucositis which showed promising results. However, developing a brand new topical treatment plan for diabetic foot ulcers is rather challenging which needs more accurate clinical testing.

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Oral mucositis indicates the ulcers in mouth and throat which sometimes show up during chemotherapy and radiation-based treatments in cancer patients. More than 40% of these people are likely to get oral mucositis, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It also shows up along with other symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, the problem in eating, and body pain. if ignored and untreated, these blisters and sores in the mouth could make life miserable and might invite a number of more health problems.

On the other side, diabetic people having foot ulcers are also at high risk. A neglected ulcer might lead to a painful infection. Nearly  85% of cases of amputations in diabetic people are initiated by the foot ulcers, which confirms the American College of Physicians. Only good care can prevent diabetic foot ulcers.

As this new medicine Suramin is re-developed, it might be a light of hope especially for diabetic people as well as cancer patients. The researchers are all set to make this medicine commercially available in the form of easy to use gels, creams, and ointments for ulcers and blisters.

Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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