A study has suggested that an experimental Chinese drug could cure millions of people infected with Opisthorchis viverrini, a parasite commonly known as the Southeast Asian Liver Fluke.

Tribendimidine, which has been developed by the Chinese National Institute of Parasitic Diseases, was found to be as efficacious as praziquantel, the only drug currently available to treat the disease.

The study was led by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

Researchers carried out a trial between February and April 2010 in schoolchildren aged 10-15 China’s Attapeu province.

Children affected by the parasite were treated with either mefloquine, artesunate, mefloquine-artesunate, tribendimidine or praziquantel.

Nineteen patients who were given tribendimidine were cured, compared to 14 treated with praziquantel, one treated with artesunate and one treated with mefloquine-artesunate.

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No patients treated with mefloquine alone were cured.

Opisthorchis viverrini is a parasite that affects the bile duct. It is usually acquired by eating raw or undercooked fish.

The parasite is endemic to Thailand, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Vietnam and Cambodia.