Repurposing drugs for the treatment and control of helminth infections.
Panic G., Duthaler U., Speich B., Keiser J.
Helminth infections are responsible for a considerable public health burden, yet the current drug armamentarium is small. Given the high cost of drug discovery and development, the high failure rates and the long duration to develop novel treatments, drug repurposing circumvents these obstacles by finding new uses for compounds other than those they were initially intended to treat. In the present review, we summarize in vivo and clinical trial findings testing clinical candidates and marketed drugs against schistosomes, food-borne trematodes, soil-transmitted helminths, Strongyloides stercoralis, the major human filariases lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis, taeniasis, neurocysticercosis and echinococcosis. While expanding the applications of broad-spectrum or veterinary anthelmintics continues to fuel alternative treatment options, antimalarials, antibiotics, antiprotozoals and anticancer agents appear to be producing fruitful results as well. The trematodes and nematodes continue to be most investigated, while cestodal drug discovery will need to be accelerated. The most clinically advanced drug candidates include the artemisinins and mefloquine against schistosomiasis, tribendimidine against liver flukes, oxantel pamoate against trichuriasis, and doxycycline against filariasis. Preclinical studies indicate a handful of promising future candidates, and are beginning to elucidate the broad-spectrum activity of some currently used anthelmintics. Challenges and opportunities are further discussed.