MAILED: March 7, 2001
A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor and several of his students have examined an altered form of Fungizone an inexpensive antifungal drug determining it may produce fewer side effects than the previous form. The results of their research were published in January in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Dr. Scott Hartsel, professor of chemistry, has been doing continual research on amphotericin B, a drug used to treat fungal infections in cancer, AIDS and organ transplant patients. The following current and former biochemistry/molecular biology UW-Eau Claire students collaborated with Hartsel on the recently published study: seniors Emily Bauer, Stillwater, Minn., L. Tuck Foree Jr., Sun Prairie, and Hilary Preis, Hartland; 2000 graduates Angela Scott and Katie Kindt; and 1999 graduate Bradley Baas.
Fungizone, a commercial form of amphotericin B, can fight infections of the blood when mixed with a water-salt solution and injected intravenously. However, the widely used drug does have its drawbacks.
Fungizone is the drug of choice. Its cheap, more available, but highly toxic, Hartsel said. It hurts the host almost as much as the infection.
Fungizones side effects range from chills, fever and vomiting to permanent kidney damage. The infection almost has to be fatal to try this, Hartsel said. People may need treatments for six months or longer. This means patients may have to be violently ill and hospitalized every week or so just to fight their infection.
There are several less toxic forms of amphotericin on the market today, but they are expensive and insurance companies are likely to stick with the well-known Fungizone, Hartsel said.
Experiments done on animals in Paris and at the University of British Columbia showed that when Fungizone was slightly heated and given to mice fewer died and there was less kidney damage observed in rabbits.
We do not get involved in animal or human testing here at the university, Hartsel said. The work done by Hartsel and the students involved comparing the test results of the nonheated Fungizone with the heat-treated in laboratory model systems.
The purpose was to find out if the new heat-treated Fungizone would have reduced side effects and still be as effective as the nonheated treatment. The goal would be to use this new treatment as an inexpensive, safer drug in the United States and in Third World countries where the HIV virus is more rampant and money for expensive drugs is limited.
Hartsel and the students will not make any money from patents for this product but say that is not the real purpose for the study.
People taking this treatment have a traumatic time, Hartsel said. Its a little more motivating hoping that this simple method could benefit people.
The research is an ongoing project that dedicated students can become a part of each year. Students may receive independent study credit or hourly pay for work on the project.
Baas, Kindt and Scott, all of whom have graduated, passed their work onto other students. Bauer and Preis worked on the analysis, while Foree worked with the instruments.
I think everyone tried to be fluent in most aspects of the research, Preis said.
Dr. Hartsel taught us how this all works so that we may have a better grasp of this area of biochemistry research, Foree said.
In February Bauer presented her work with Hartsel in Boston at the Biophysical Society meeting.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: March 7, 2001