Drug combinations for the treatment of leishmaniasis represent a promising and challenging chemotherapeutic strategy that has recently been implemented in different endemic areas. However, the vast majority of studies undertaken to date have ignored the potential risk that Leishmania parasites could develop resistance to the different drugs used in such combinations. As a result, this study was designed to elucidate the ability of Leishmania donovani to develop experimental resistance to anti-leishmanial drug combinations. The induction of resistance to amphotericin B/miltefosine, amphotericin B/paromomycin, amphotericin B/SbIII, miltefosine/paromomycin, and SbIII/paromomycin was determined using a step-wise adaptation process to increasing drug concentrations. Intracellular amastigotes resistant to these drug combinations were obtained from resistant L. donovani promastigote forms, and the thiol and ATP levels and the mitochondrial membrane potential of the resistant lines were analysed. Resistance to drug combinations was obtained after 10 weeks and remained in the intracellular amastigotes. Additionally, this resistance proved to be unstable. More importantly, we observed that promastigotes/amastigotes resistant to one drug combination showed a marked cross-resistant profile to other anti-leishmanial drugs. Additionally, the thiol levels increased in resistant lines that remained protected against the drug-induced loss of ATP and mitochondrial membrane potential. We have therefore demonstrated that different resistance patterns can be obtained in L. donovani depending upon the drug combinations used. Resistance to the combinations miltefosine/paromomycin and SbIII/paromomycin is easily obtained experimentally. These results have been validated in intracellular amastigotes, and have important relevance for ensuring the long-term efficacy of drug combinations.
Leishmania is a protozoan parasite that infects human macrophages to produce the neglected tropical disease known as leishmaniasis. Chemotherapy is currently the only treatment option for leishmaniasis. First-line therapies include pentavalent antimonials, except in some regions in the Indian subcontinent, the liposomal formulation of amphotericin B, miltefosine and paromomycin. The WHO has recently recommended a combined therapy in order to extend the life expectancy of these compounds. However, resistance could be induced in Leishmania if this approach is not applied in a controlled and regulated way, thus resulting in a rapid loss of efficacy of not one but two therapeutic options. In light of this, we have designed relevant experimental studies in order to determine whether Leishmania parasites are able to develop resistance to the different potential anti-leishmanial drug combinations that will be used in the near future. The results obtained could help us to predict the success of drug combination therapy. Experimental resistance of Leishmania donovani promastigotes to drug combinations was obtained after 10 weeks and remained in the intracellular amastigotes. We therefore conclude that L. donovani can easily develop resistance to drug combinations mainly miltefosine/paromomycin and SbIII/paromomycin. These results have been validated in intracellular amastigotes and are of considerable interest for future prediction of the success of drug combination therapy.
Dendritic cells (DCs), professional antigen-presenting cells with the unique ability to initiate primary T-cell responses, are present in atherosclerotic lesions where they are exposed to oxidative stress that generates cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). A large body of evidence indicates that cell death is a major modulating factor of atherogenesis. We examined antioxidant defence systems of human monocyte-derived (mo)DCs and monocytes in response to oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress was induced by addition of tertiary-butylhydroperoxide (tert-BHP, 30 min). Cellular responses were evaluated using flow cytometry and confocal live cell imaging (both using 5-(and-6)-chloromethyl-2,7-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate, CM-H2DCFDA). Viability was assessed by the neutral red assay. Total RNA was extracted for a PCR profiler array. Five genes were selected for confirmation by Taqman gene expression assays, and by immunoblotting or immunohistochemistry for protein levels.
Tert-BHP increased CM-H2DCFDA fluorescence and caused cell death. Interestingly, all processes occurred more slowly in moDCs than in monocytes. The mRNA profiler array showed more than 2-fold differential expression of 32 oxidative stress–related genes in unstimulated moDCs, including peroxiredoxin-2 (PRDX2), an enzyme reducing hydrogen peroxide and lipid peroxides. PRDX2 upregulation was confirmed by Taqman assays, immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. Silencing PRDX2 in moDCs by means of siRNA significantly increased CM-DCF fluorescence and cell death upon tert-BHP-stimulation.
Our results indicate that moDCs exhibit higher intracellular antioxidant capacities, making them better equipped to resist oxidative stress than monocytes. Upregulation of PRDX2 is involved in the neutralization of ROS in moDCs. Taken together, this points to better survival skills of DCs in oxidative stress environments, such as atherosclerotic plaques.
Paromomycin (PMM) has recently been introduced for treatment of visceral leishmaniasis in India. Although no clinical resistance has yet been reported, proactive vigilance should be warranted. The present in vitro study compared the outcome and stability of experimental PMM-resistance induction on promastigotes and intracellular amastigotes. Cloned antimony-resistant L. donovani field isolates from India and Nepal were exposed to stepwise increasing concentrations of PMM (up to 500 µM), either as promastigotes or intracellular amastigotes. One resulting resistant strain was cloned and checked for stability of resistance by drug-free in vitro passage as promastigotes for 20 weeks or a single in vivo passage in the golden hamster. Resistance selection in promastigotes took about 25 weeks to reach the maximal 97 µM inclusion level that did not affect normal growth. Comparison of the IC50 values between the parent and the selected strains revealed a 9 to 11-fold resistance for the Indian and 3 to 5-fold for the Nepalese strains whereby the resistant phenotype was also maintained at the level of the amastigote. Applying PMM pressure to intracellular amastigotes produced resistance after just two selection cycles (IC50 = 199 µM) compared to the parent strain (IC50 = 45 µM). In the amastigote-induced strains/clones, lower PMM susceptibilities were seen only in amastigotes and not at all in promastigotes. This resistance phenotype remained stable after serial in vitro passage as promastigote for 20 weeks and after a single in vivo passage in the hamster. This study clearly demonstrates that a different PMM-resistance phenotype is obtained whether drug selection is applied to promastigotes or intracellular amastigotes. These findings may have important relevance to resistance mechanism investigations and the likelihood of resistance development and detection in the field.
Leishmaniasis is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania and is transmitted by inoculation of infective promastigotes by the female sand fly. In the mammalian host, amastigotes live inside macrophage cells which may lead to various clinical symptoms. First-line treatment relies mainly on antimonials and miltefosine; however, drug resistance is a growing problem. The antibiotic paromomycin (PMM) has recently been added as treatment option, but it is now essential to proactively assess the likelihood of resistance development to safeguard its long term effectiveness. Since ‘resistant’ patient isolates are not yet available, we artificially selected for PMM resistance using two different in vitro protocols with drug pressure on either the extracellular promastigote or on the intracellular amastigote stage. Resistance in promastigotes was obtained after about 25 weeks and persisted in the intracellular amastigote. High levels of resistance were obtained within two selection cycles on amastigotes, but with the unexpected observation that the promastigotes remained fully susceptible. In addition, the resistance proved to be stable. We could clearly demonstrate that a different PMM-resistance is obtained dependent on the ‘stage-selection’ protocol. These findings have important relevance to resistance mechanism investigations and the likelihood of resistance development and detection in the field.
Worldwide particularly in developing countries, a large proportion of the population is at risk for tropical parasitic diseases. Several medicinal plants are still used traditionally against protozoal infections in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Thus the present study investigated the in vitro antiprotozoal activity of twenty-five plants collected from the Arabian Peninsula.
Plant materials were extracted with methanol and screened in vitro against erythrocytic schizonts of Plasmodium falciparum, intracellular amastigotes of Leishmania infantum and Trypanosoma cruzi and free trypomastigotes of T. brucei. Cytotoxic activity was determined against MRC-5 cells to assess selectivity. The criterion for activity was an IC50 < 10 μg/ml (<5 μg/ml for T. brucei) and selectivity index of >4.
Antiplasmodial activity was found in the extracts of Chrozophora oblongifolia, Ficus ingens, Lavandula dentata and Plectranthus barbatus. Amastigotes of T. cruzi were affected by Grewia erythraea, L. dentata, Tagetes minuta and Vernonia leopoldii. Activity against T. brucei was obtained in G. erythraea, L. dentata, P. barbatus and T. minuta. No relevant activity was found against L. infantum. High levels of cytotoxicity (MRC-5 IC50 < 10 μg/ml) and hence non-specific activities were noted in Cupressus sempervirens, Kanahia laniflora and Kniphofia sumarae.
The results endorse that medicinal plants can be promising sources of natural products with antiprotozoal activity potential. The results support to some extent the traditional uses of some plants for the treatment of parasitic protozoal diseases.
Cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily are present in nearly all eukaryotes and also play pivotal roles in the biology of parasites. Inhibition of cysteine proteases is emerging as an important strategy to combat parasitic diseases such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease and leishmaniasis. Inspired by the in vivo antiparasitic activity of the vinyl sulfone based cysteine protease inhibitors (CPIs), a series of α-ketoheterocycles 1-15 has been developed as reversible inhibitors of a recombinant L. mexicana cysteine protease CPB2.8. The isoxazoles 1-3 and especially the oxadiazole 15 are potent reversible inhibitors of CPB2.8, however, in vitro whole-organism screening against a panel of protozoan parasites did not fully correlate with the observed inhibition of the cysteine protease.
cysteine proteases; inhibitors; ketoheterocycle; parasite CPB; Trypanosoma
New chemical entities are desperately needed that overcome the limitations of existing drugs for neglected diseases. Screening a diverse library of 10,000 drug-like compounds against 7 neglected disease pathogens resulted in an integrated dataset of 744 hits. We discuss the prioritization of these hits for each pathogen and the strong correlation observed between compounds active against more than two pathogens and mammalian cell toxicity. Our work suggests that the efficiency of early drug discovery for neglected diseases can be enhanced through a collaborative, multi-pathogen approach.
The search for new drugs for human neglected diseases accelerated in the past decade, based on the recognition that addressing these infections was necessary for global poverty reduction. The expansion of discovery and development programmes was supported by donor investment, increasing participation of the industry and the creation of Product Development Partnership (PDP) enterprises. Despite these efforts, major discovery gaps remain as, apart from some repurposed drugs and a few new molecules for malaria, no new candidate has been recently transitioned from discovery into development for the major Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). In this publication, we present a collaborative network model for drug discovery based on coordinated North-South partnerships. This network carried out low-to-medium throughput whole-organism screening assays against seven NTDs (malaria, leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis [HAT], Chagas' disease, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis) together with an early assessment of compound toxicity in mammalian cells. We describe a screening campaign of 10,000 molecules, its outcome and the implications of this strategy for enhancing the efficiency and productivity of drug discovery for NTDs.
Although the exact role of quorum sensing (QS) in various stages of biofilm formation, maturation, and dispersal and in biofilm resistance is not entirely clear, the use of QS inhibitors (QSI) has been proposed as a potential antibiofilm strategy. We have investigated whether QSI enhance the susceptibility of bacterial biofilms to treatment with conventional antimicrobial agents. The QSI used in our study target the acyl-homoserine lactone-based QS system present in Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Burkholderia cepacia complex organisms (baicalin hydrate, cinnamaldehyde) or the peptide-based system present in Staphylococcus aureus (hamamelitannin). The effect of tobramycin (P. aeruginosa, B. cepacia complex) and clindamycin or vancomycin (S. aureus), alone or in combination with QSI, was evaluated in various in vitro and in vivo biofilm model systems, including two invertebrate models and one mouse pulmonary infection model. In vitro the combined use of an antibiotic and a QSI generally resulted in increased killing compared to killing by an antibiotic alone, although reductions were strain and model dependent. A significantly higher fraction of infected Galleria mellonella larvae and Caenorhabditis elegans survived infection following combined treatment, compared to treatment with an antibiotic alone. Finally, the combined use of tobramycin and baicalin hydrate reduced the microbial load in the lungs of BALB/c mice infected with Burkholderia cenocepacia more than tobramycin treatment alone. Our data suggest that QSI may increase the success of antibiotic treatment by increasing the susceptibility of bacterial biofilms and/or by increasing host survival following infection.
Leishmania donovani is an intracellular protozoan parasite that causes visceral leishmaniasis (VL). Antimonials (SSG) have long been the first-line treatment against VL, but have now been replaced by miltefosine (MIL) in the Indian subcontinent due to the emergence of SSG-resistance. Our previous study hypothesised that SSG-resistant L. donovani might have increased in vivo survival skills which could affect the efficacy of other treatments such as MIL. The present study attempts to validate these hypotheses. Fourteen strains derived from Nepalese clinical isolates with documented SSG-susceptibility were infected in BALB/c mice to study their survival capacity in drug free conditions (non-treated mice) and in MIL-treated mice. SSG-resistant parasites caused a significant higher in vivo parasite load compared to SSG-sensitive parasites. However, this did not seem to affect the strains' response to MIL-treatment since parasites from both phenotypes responded equally well to in vivo MIL exposure. We conclude that there is a positive association between SSG-resistance and in vivo survival skills in our sample of L. donovani strains which could suggest a higher virulence of SSG-R strains compared to SSG-S strains. These greater in vivo survival skills of SSG-R parasites do not seem to directly affect their susceptibility to MIL. However, it cannot be excluded that repeated MIL exposure will elicit different adaptations in these SSG-R parasites with superior survival skills compared to the SSG-S parasites. Our results therefore highlight the need to closely monitor drug efficacy in the field, especially in the context of the Kala-azar elimination programme ongoing in the Indian subcontinent.
Most of the Leishmania genome is reported to be
constitutively expressed during the life cycle of the parasite, with a few
regulated genes. Inter-species comparative transcriptomics evidenced a low
number of species-specific differences related to differentially distributed
genes or the differential regulation of conserved genes. It is of uppermost
importance to ensure that the observed differences are indeed
species-specific and not simply specific of the strains selected for
representing the species. The relevance of this concern is illustrated by
We selected 5 clinical isolates of L. braziliensis
characterized by their diversity of clinical and in vitro
phenotypes. Real-time quantitative PCR was performed on promastigote and
amastigote life stages to assess gene expression profiles at seven time
points covering the whole life cycle. We tested 12 genes encoding proteins
with roles in transport, thiol-based redox metabolism, cellular reduction,
RNA poly(A)-tail metabolism, cytoskeleton function and ribosomal function.
The general trend of expression profiles showed that regulation of gene
expression essentially occurs around the stationary phase of promastigotes.
However, the genes involved in this phenomenon appeared to vary
significantly among the isolates considered.
Our results clearly illustrate the unique character of each isolate in terms
of gene expression dynamics. Results obtained on an individual strain are
not necessarily representative of a given species. Therefore, extreme care
should be taken when comparing the profiles of different species and
extrapolating functional differences between them.
Leishmania is a group of parasites (Protozoa, Trypanosomatidae)
responsible for a wide spectrum of clinical forms. Among the factors explaining
this phenotypic polymorphism, parasite features are important contributors. One
approach to identify them consists in characterizing the gene expression
profiles throughout the life cycle. In a recent study, the transcriptome of 3
Leishmania species was compared and this revealed
species-specific differences, albeit in a low number. A key issue, however, is
to ensure that the observed differences are indeed species-specific and not
specific of the strains selected for representing the species. In order to
illustrate the relevance of this concern, we analyzed here the gene expression
profiles of 5 clinical isolates of L. braziliensis at seven
time points of the life cycle. Our results clearly illustrate the unique
character of each isolate in terms of gene expression dynamics: one
Leishmania strain is not necessarily representative of a
The triazole antifungal pramiconazole (Stiefel, a GSK company) was compared with itraconazole, miconazole, and terbinafine in vitro and in vivo. Potent in vitro activities against Candida spp. (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50], 0.04 to 1.83 μM) and Microsporum and Trichophyton spp. (IC50, 0.15 to 1.34 μM) were obtained but not, however, against other filamentous molds and zygomycetes. In the M. canis guinea pig model and C. albicans vulvovaginitis rat model, pramiconazole was superior to the reference compounds after oral and topical administration.
Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), expresses two proteins with homology to human glycogen synthase kinase 3β (HsGSK-3) designated TbruGSK-3 short and TbruGSK-3 long. TbruGSK-3 short has previously been validated as a potential drug target and since this enzyme has also been pursued as a human drug target, a large number of inhibitors are available for screening against the parasite enzyme. A collaborative industrial/academic partnership facilitated by the World Health Organisation Tropical Diseases Research division (WHO TDR) was initiated to stimulate research aimed at identifying new drugs for treating HAT.
A subset of over 16,000 inhibitors of HsGSK-3 β from the Pfizer compound collection was screened against the shorter of two orthologues of TbruGSK-3. The resulting active compounds were tested for selectivity versus HsGSK-3β and a panel of human kinases, as well as in vitro anti-trypanosomal activity. Structural analysis of the human and trypanosomal enzymes was also performed.
We identified potent and selective compounds representing potential attractive starting points for a drug discovery program. Structural analysis of the human and trypanosomal enzymes also revealed hypotheses for further improving selectivity of the compounds.
Over 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of infection with the parasite Trypanosoma brucei which causes Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness. The disease results in systemic and neurological disability to its victims. At present, only four drugs are available for treatment of HAT. However, these drugs are expensive, limited in efficacy and are severely toxic, hence the need to develop new therapies. Previously, the short TbruGSK-3 short has been validated as a potential target for developing new drugs against HAT. Because this enzyme has also been pursued as a drug target for other diseases, several inhibitors are available for screening against the parasite enzyme. Here we present the results of screening over 16,000 inhibitors of human GSK-3β (HsGSK-3) from the Pfizer compound collection against TbruGSK-3 short. The resulting active compounds were tested for selectivity versus HsGSK-3β and a panel of human kinases, as well as their ability to inhibit proliferation of the parasite in vitro. We have identified attractive compounds that now form potential starting points for drug discovery against HAT. This is an example of how a tripartite partnership involving pharmaceutical industries, academic institutions and non-government organisations such as WHO TDR, can stimulate research for neglected diseases.
Many bacteria, including Vibrio spp., regulate virulence gene expression in a cell-density dependent way through a communication process termed quorum sensing (QS). Hence, interfering with QS could be a valuable novel antipathogenic strategy. Cinnamaldehyde has previously been shown to inhibit QS-regulated virulence by decreasing the DNA-binding ability of the QS response regulator LuxR. However, little is known about the structure-activity relationship of cinnamaldehyde analogs.
By evaluating the QS inhibitory activity of a series of cinnamaldehyde analogs, structural elements critical for autoinducer-2 QS inhibition were identified. These include an α,β unsaturated acyl group capable of reacting as Michael acceptor connected to a hydrophobic moiety and a partially negative charge. The most active cinnamaldehyde analogs were found to affect the starvation response, biofilm formation, pigment production and protease production in Vibrio spp in vitro, while exhibiting low cytotoxicity. In addition, these compounds significantly increased the survival of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans infected with Vibrio anguillarum, Vibrio harveyi and Vibrio vulnificus.
Several new and more active cinnamaldehyde analogs were discovered and they were shown to affect Vibrio spp. virulence factor production in vitro and in vivo. Although ligands for LuxR have not been identified so far, the nature of different cinnamaldehyde analogs and their effect on the DNA binding ability of LuxR suggest that these compounds act as LuxR-ligands.
In this paper, we present the biochemical and biological evaluation of N-arylmethyl-substituted iminoribitol derivatives as potential chemotherapeutic agents against trypanosomiasis. Previously, a library of 52 compounds was designed and synthesized as potent and selective inhibitors of Trypanosoma vivax inosine-adenosine-guanosine nucleoside hydrolase (IAG-NH). However, when the compounds were tested against bloodstream-form Trypanosoma brucei brucei, only one inhibitor, N-(9-deaza-adenin-9-yl)methyl-1,4-dideoxy-1,4-imino-d-ribitol (UAMC-00363), displayed significant activity (mean 50% inhibitory concentration [IC50] ± standard error, 0.49 ± 0.31 μM). Validation in an in vivo model of African trypanosomiasis showed promising results for this compound. Several experiments were performed to investigate why only UAMC-00363 showed antiparasitic activity. First, the compound library was screened against T. b. brucei IAG-NH and inosine-guanosine nucleoside hydrolase (IG-NH) to confirm the previously demonstrated inhibitory effects of the compounds on T. vivax IAG-NH. Second, to verify the uptake of these compounds by T. b. brucei, their affinities for the nucleoside P1 and nucleoside/nucleobase P2 transporters of T. b. brucei were tested. Only UAMC-00363 displayed significant affinity for the P2 transporter. It was also shown that UAMC-00363 is concentrated in the cell via at least one additional transporter, since P2 knockout mutants of T. b. brucei displayed no resistance to the compound. Consequently, no cross-resistance to the diamidine or the melaminophenyl arsenical classes of trypanocides is expected. Third, three enzymes of the purine salvage pathway of procyclic T. b. brucei (IAG-NH, IG-NH, and methylthioadenosine phosphorylase [MTAP]) were investigated using RNA interference. The findings from all these studies showed that it is probably not sufficient to target only the nucleoside hydrolase activity to block the purine salvage pathway of T. b. brucei and that, therefore, it is possible that UAMC-00363 acts on an additional target.
Leishmania donovani is an intracellular protozoan parasite that causes a lethal systemic disease, visceral leishmaniasis (VL), and is transmitted between mammalian hosts by phlebotomine sandflies. Leishmania expertly survives in these ‘hostile’ environments with a unique redox system protecting against oxidative damage, and host manipulation skills suppressing oxidative outbursts of the mammalian host. Treating patients imposes an additional stress on the parasite and sodium stibogluconate (SSG) was used for over 70 years in the Indian subcontinent.
We evaluated whether the survival capacity of clinical L. donovani isolates varies significantly at different stages of their life cycle by comparing proliferation, oxidative stress tolerance and infection capacity of 3 Nepalese L. donovani strains in several in vitro and in vivo models. In general, the two strains that were resistant to SSG, a stress encountered in patients, attained stationary phase at a higher parasite density, contained a higher amount of metacyclic parasites and had a greater capacity to cause in vivo infection in mice compared to the SSG-sensitive strain.
The 2 SSG-resistant strains had superior survival skills as promastigotes and as amastigotes compared to the SSG-sensitive strain. These results could indicate that Leishmania parasites adapting successfully to antimonial drug pressure acquire an overall increased fitness, which stands in contrast to what is found for other organisms, where drug resistance is usually linked to a fitness cost. Further validation experiments are under way to verify this hypothesis.
Diagnostic material from patients with leishmaniasis is generally available as promastigotes, and proper testing for susceptibility to first-line drugs by the intracellular amastigote assay is frequently hampered by the poor infectivity of the promastigotes for the macrophage host cell. Several conditions for optimization of the in vitro metacyclogenesis and cell infectivity of Leishmania donovani, L. guyanensis, and L. braziliensis field strains obtained from patients receiving standard antimony medication were investigated. Triggering log-phase promastigotes to become amastigote-like by increasing the temperature or acidifying the culture medium was not successful. Adequate metacyclogenesis and the highest levels of macrophage infection were obtained after 5-day-old late-log-phase promastigote cultures were preconditioned at 25°C to pH 5.4 for 24 h in Schneider's medium prior to infection. The susceptibility assay with primary peritoneal mouse macrophages included pentavalent antimony (SbV; sodium stibogluconate), trivalent antimony (SbIII; potassium antimonyl tartrate), miltefosine, and the experimental drug PX-6518. All strains were sensitive to miltefosine (50% inhibitory concentration [IC50] < 10 μM) and PX-6518 (IC50 < 2 μg/ml) but showed distinct susceptibility to SbV and/or SbIII, depending on whether they were derived from cured, relapse, or nonresponder patients. Within the available set of Leishmania species and strains, simultaneous SbV-SbIII resistance was clearly associated with treatment failure; however, a larger set of isolates is still needed to judge the predictive value of SbV-SbIII susceptibility profiling on treatment outcome. In conclusion, the proposed conditioning protocol further contributes toward a more standardized laboratory model for evaluation of the drug sensitivities of field isolates.
Metacaspase (MCA) is an important enzyme in Trypanosoma brucei, absent from humans and differing significantly from the orthologous human caspases. Therefore MCA constitutes a new attractive drug target for antiparasitic chemotherapeutics, which needs further characterization to support the discovery of innovative drug candidates. A first series of inhibitors has been prepared on the basis of known substrate specificity and the predicted catalytic mechanism of the enzyme. In this Letter we present the first inhibitors of TbMCA2 with low micromolar enzymatic and antiparasitic activity in vitro combined with low cytotoxicity.
The in vitro susceptibilities of the reference strain Leishmania donovani MHOM/ET/67/L82 to sodium stibogluconate, amphotericin B, miltefosine, and the experimental compound PX-6518 were determined for extracellular log-phase promastigotes, established axenic amastigotes, fresh spleen-derived amastigotes, and intracellular amastigotes in primary mouse peritoneal macrophages. Susceptibility to amphotericin B did not differ across the various axenic models (50% inhibitory concentrations [IC50], 0.6 to 0.7 μM), and amphotericin B showed slightly higher potency against intracellular amastigotes (IC50, 0.1 to 0.4 μM). A similar trend was observed for miltefosine, with comparable efficacies against the extracellular (IC50, 0.4 to 3.8 μM) and intracellular (IC50, 0.9 to 4.3 μM) stages. Sodium stibogluconate, used either as Pentostam or as a crystalline substance, was inactive against all axenic stages (IC50, >64 μg SbV/ml) but showed good efficacy against intracellular amastigotes (IC50, 22 to 28 μg SbV/ml); the crystalline substance was about two to three times more potent (IC50, 9 to 11 μg SbV/ml). The activity profile of PX-6518 was comparable to that of sodium stibogluconate, but at a much higher potency (IC50, 0.1 μg/ml). In conclusion, the differential susceptibility determines which in vitro models are appropriate for either drug screening or resistance monitoring of clinical field isolates. Despite the more complex and labor-intensive protocol, the current results support the intracellular amastigote model as the gold standard for in vitro Leishmania drug discovery research and for evaluation of the resistance of field strains, since it also includes host cell-mediated effects. Axenic systems can be recommended only for compounds for which no cellular mechanisms are involved, for example, amphotericin B and miltefosine.
The current drug R&D pipeline for most neglected diseases remains weak, and unlikely to support registration of novel drug classes that meet desired target product profiles in the short term. This calls for sustained investment as well as greater emphasis in the risky upstream drug discovery. Access to technologies, resources, and strong management as well as clear compound progression criteria are factors in the successful implementation of any collaborative drug discovery effort. We discuss how some of these factors have impacted drug discovery for tropical diseases within the past four decades, and highlight new opportunities and challenges through the virtual North–South drug discovery network as well as the rationale for greater participation of institutions in developing countries in product innovation. A set of criteria designed to facilitate compound progression from screening hits to drug candidate selection is presented to guide ongoing efforts.
Maesabalide III (MB-III), an oleane triterpene saponin isolated from the Vietnamese plant Maesa balansae, is a new antileishmanial lead compound whose activity against Leishmania donovani (MHOM/ET/67/L82) in groups of five golden hamsters was evaluated after administration of a single subcutaneous dose on either day 1 (prophylactic treatment) or day 28 (curative treatment) after infection. Liposomal amphotericin B (AmBisome), administered intravenously at 5 mg/kg of body weight, was used as the reference drug. Amastigote burdens in liver, spleen, and bone marrow were determined either 7 days (early effects) or 56 days (late effects) after treatment. Prophylactic administration of MB-III at 0.2 mg/kg reduced liver amastigote burdens by 99.8 and 83% within 7 and 56 days after treatment, respectively. In the latter group, however, all animals became ill and some died. Both MB-III at 0.8 mg/kg and liposomal amphotericin B were 100% effective against liver stages, but clearance from the spleen and bone marrow was not achieved. Curative administration of MB-III at 0.2 and 0.4 mg/kg was not protective, as no survivors were left at the termination of the experiment on day 84. Despite the high level of reduction of the liver amastigote burden after treatment with MB-III at 0.8 mg/kg (94.2%) or liposomal amphotericin B (99.4%), clinical protection could not be obtained in either group, with two deaths occurring and the residual liver burdens persisting. It is concluded that administration of a single dose of MB-III at 0.8 mg/kg has efficacy potential comparable to that of a single dose of liposomal amphotericin B at 5 mg/kg and is therefore considered a promising new antileishmanial lead compound. However, multiple-dose pharmacological, toxicological, and pharmacokinetic studies are still needed before it can become a valid drug candidate for development.
The in vitro and in vivo activities of a mixture of six oleane triterpene saponins, recovered from the methanolic extract of the leaves of the Vietnamese plant Maesa balansae (PX-6518), were evaluated against drug-sensitive visceral Leishmania strains. The in vitro 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) against intracellular Leishmania infantum amastigotes was 0.04 μg/ml. The cytotoxic concentrations causing 50% cell death (CC50s) were about 1 μg/ml in murine macrophage host cells and >32 μg/ml in human fibroblasts (MRC-5 cell line). Evaluation in the Leishmania donovani BALB/c mouse model indicated that a single subcutaneous administration of 0.4 mg/kg at 1 day after infection reduced liver amastigote burdens by about 95% in all treated animals. If treatment was delayed until 14 days after infection, a dose of 1.6 mg/kg of body weight was required to maintain the same level of activity. Single 250-mg/kg doses of sodium stibogluconate (Pentostam) 1 and 14 days after infection produced comparable efficacies. A single dose of PX-6518 at 2.5 mg/kg administered 5 days before infection was still 100% effective in preventing liver infection, suggesting a particularly long residual action. Spleen and bone marrow could not be cleared by PX-6518 nor sodium stibogluconate. PX-6518 did not show activity after oral dosing at up to 200 mg/kg for 5 days. This study concludes that triterpenoid saponins from M. balansae show promising in vitro and in vivo antileishmanial potential and can be considered as new lead structures in the search for novel antileishmanial drugs.