The Antihelminthic Drugs


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Source: OpenStax Microbiology

OpenStax Microbiology

Because helminths are multicellular eukaryotes like humans, developing drugs with selective toxicity against them is extremely challenging. Despite this, several effective classes have been developed . Synthetic benzimidazoles, like mebendazole and albendazole, bind to helminthic β-tubulin, preventing microtubule formation. Microtubules in the intestinal cells of the worms seem to be particularly affected, leading to a reduction in glucose uptake. Besides their activity against a broad range of helminths, benzimidazoles are also active against many protozoans, fungi, and viruses, and their use for inhibiting mitosis and cell cycle progression in cancer cells is under study. Possible side effects of their use include liver damage and bone marrow suppression.

The avermectins are members of the macrolide family that were first discovered from a Japanese soil isolate, Streptomyces avermectinius. A more potent semisynthetic derivative of avermectin is ivermectin, which binds to glutamate-gated chloride channels specific to invertebrates including helminths, blocking neuronal transmission and causing starvation, paralysis, and death of the worms. Ivermectin is used to treat roundworm diseases, including onchocerciasis (also called river blindness, caused by the worm Onchocerca volvulus) and strongyloidiasis (caused by the worm Strongyloides stercoralis or S. fuelleborni). Ivermectin also can also treat parasitic insects like mites, lice, and bed bugs, and is nontoxic to humans.

Niclosamide is a synthetic drug that has been used for over 50 years to treat tapeworm infections. Although its mode of action is not entirely clear, niclosamide appears to inhibit ATP formation under anaerobic conditions and inhibit oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria of its target pathogens. Niclosamide is not absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, thus it can achieve high localized intestinal concentrations in patients. Recently, it has been shown to also have antibacterial, antiviral, and antitumor activities.

Another synthetic antihelminthic drug is praziquantel, which used for the treatment of parasitic tapeworms and liver flukes, and is particularly useful for the treatment of schistosomiasis (caused by blood flukes from three genera of Schistosoma). Its mode of action remains unclear, but it appears to cause the influx of calcium into the worm, resulting in intense spasm and paralysis of the worm. It is often used as a preferred alternative to niclosamide in the treatment of tapeworms when gastrointestinal discomfort limits niclosamide use.

Another synthetic antihelminthic drug is praziquantel, which used for the treatment of parasitic tapeworms and liver flukes, and is particularly useful for the treatment of schistosomiasis (caused by blood flukes from three genera of Schistosoma). Its mode of action remains unclear, but it appears to cause the influx of calcium into the worm, resulting in intense spasm and paralysis of the worm. It is often used as a preferred alternative to niclosamide in the treatment of tapeworms when gastrointestinal discomfort limits niclosamide use.

The thioxanthenones, another class of synthetic drugs structurally related to quinine, exhibit antischistosomal activity by inhibiting RNA synthesis. The thioxanthenone lucanthone and its metabolite hycanthone were the first used clinically, but serious neurological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and hepatic side effects led to their discontinuation. Oxamniquine, a less toxic derivative of hycanthone, is only effective against S. mansoni, one of the three species known to cause schistosomiasis in humans. Praziquantel was developed to target the other two schistosome species, but concerns about increasing resistance have renewed interest in developing additional derivatives of oxamniquine to target all three clinically important schistosome species.

Source:

Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology