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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1997 Mar;41(3):523-9.

Characterization of the potent in vitro and in vivo antimalarial activities of ionophore compounds.

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  • 1Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 5539, Universit√© Montpellier II, France.

Erratum in

  • J Am Coll Surg 1997 Oct;185(4):423-4.


Large-scale in vitro screening of different types of ionophores previously pinpointed nine compounds that were very active and selective in vitro against Plasmodium falciparum; their in vitro and in vivo antimalarial effects were further studied. Addition of the ionophores to synchronized P. falciparum suspensions revealed that all P. falciparum stages were sensitive to the drugs. However, the schizont stages were three- to ninefold more sensitive, and 12 h was required for complete parasite clearance. Pretreatment of healthy erythrocytes with toxic doses of ionophores for 24 to 48 h showed that the activity was not due to an irreversible effect on the host erythrocyte. No preferential ionophore adsorption in infected or uninfected erythrocytes occurred. On the other hand, ionophore molecules strongly bound to serum proteins since increasing the serum concentration from 2 to 50% led to almost a 25-fold parallel increase in the ionophore 50% inhibitory concentration. Mice infected with the malaria parasites Plasmodium vinckei petteri or Plasmodium chabaudi were successfully treated with eight ionophores in a 4-day suppressive test. The 50% effective dose after intraperitoneal administration ranged from 0.4 to 4.1 mg/kg of body weight, and the therapeutic indices were about 5 for all ionophores except monensin A methyl ether, 5-bromo lasalocid A, and gramicidin D, whose therapeutic indices were 12, 18, and 344, respectively. These three compounds were found to be curative, with no recrudescence. Gramicidin D, which presented impressive antimalarial activity, requires parenteral administration, while 5-bromo lasalocid A has the major advantage of being active after oral administration. Overall, the acceptable levels of toxicity and the good in vivo therapeutic indices in the rodent model highlight the interesting potential of these ionophores for the treatment of malaria in higher animals.

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