Nixon, GL, McEntee, L, Johnson, A, Farrington, N, Whalley, S, Livermore, J, Natal, C, Washbourn, G, Bibby, J, Berry, N, Lestner, J, Truong, M, Owen, A, Lalloo, D, Charles, I & Hope, W 2018, 'Repurposing and Reformulation of the Antiparasitic Agent Flubendazole for Treatment of Cryptococcal Meningoencephalitis, a Neglected Fungal Disease', Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, vol. 62, no. 4.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Current therapeutic options for cryptococcal meningitis are limited by toxicity, global supply, and emergence of resistance. There is an urgent need to develop additional antifungal agents that are fungicidal within the central nervous system and preferably orally bioavailable. The benzimidazoles have broad-spectrum antiparasitic activity but also have in vitro antifungal activity that includes Cryptococcus neoformans. Flubendazole (a benzimidazole) has been reformulated by Janssen Pharmaceutica as an amorphous solid drug nanodispersion to develop an orally bioavailable medicine for the treatment of neglected tropical diseases such as onchocerciasis. We investigated the in vitro activity, the structure-activity-relationships, and both in vitro and in vivo pharmacodynamics of flubendazole for cryptococcal meningitis. Flubendazole has potent in vitro activity against Cryptococcus neoformans, with a modal MIC of 0.125 mg/liter using European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST) methodology. Computer models provided an insight into the residues responsible for the binding of flubendazole to cryptococcal -tubulin. Rapid fungicidal activity was evident in a hollow-fiber infection model of cryptococcal meningitis. The solid drug nanodispersion was orally bioavailable in mice with higher drug exposure in the cerebrum. The maximal dose of flubendazole (12 mg/kg of body weight/day) orally resulted in an 2 log10CFU/g reduction in fungal burden compared with that in vehicle-treated controls. Flubendazole was orally bioavailable in rabbits, but there were no quantifiable drug concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or cerebrum and no antifungal activity was demonstrated in either CSF or cerebrum. These studies provide evidence for the further study and development of the benzimidazole scaffold for the treatment of cryptococcal meningitis.
Truong, M, Monahan, LG, Carter, DA & Charles, IG 2018, 'Repurposing drugs to fast-track therapeutic agents for the treatment of cryptococcosis', PeerJ, vol. 2018, no. 5.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2018 Truong et al. Many infectious diseases disproportionately affect people in the developing world. Cryptococcal meningitis is one of the most common mycoses in HIV-AIDS patients, with the highest burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Current best treatment regimens still result in unacceptably high mortality rates, and more effective antifungal agents are needed urgently. Drug development is hampered by the difficulty of developing effective antifungal agents that are not also toxic to human cells, and by a reluctance among pharmaceutical companies to invest in drugs that cannot guarantee a high financial return. Drug repurposing, where existing drugs are screened for alternative activities, is becoming an attractive approach in antimicrobial discovery programs, and various compound libraries are now commercially available. As these drugs have already undergone extensive optimisation and passed regulatory hurdles this can fast-track their progress to market for new uses. This study screened the Screen-Well Enzo library of 640 compounds for candidates that phenotypically inhibited the growth of Cryptococcus deuterogattii. The anthelminthic agent flubendazole, and L-type calcium channel blockers nifedipine, nisoldipine and felodipine, appeared particularly promising and were tested in additional strains and species. Flubendazole was very active against all pathogenic Cryptococcus species, with minimum inhibitory concentrations of 0.039-0.156 μg/mL, and was equally effective against isolates that were resistant to fluconazole. While nifedipine, nisoldipine and felodipine all inhibited Cryptococcus, nisoldipine was also effective against Candida, Saccharomyces and Aspergillus. This study validates repurposing as a rapid approach for finding new agents to treat neglected infectious diseases.