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Acta Trop. 2006 May;98(2):152-61. Epub 2006 May 5.

Cytotoxic effect of curcumin on Giardia lamblia trophozoites.

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Departamento de Fisiología, Centro Universitario de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad de Guadalajara, Sierra Mojada 950, Guadalajara, Jalisco, CP 44340, México.


Giardia lamblia is one of the most important worldwide causes of intestinal infections produced by protozoa. Thus, the search for new alternative therapeutic approaches for this parasitic disease is very important. Common drugs used to control and eradicate this infection, frequently exhibit side effects that force patients to abandon treatment. The present work evaluates the anti-protozoan activity of curcumin, the main constituent of turmeric. Axenic G. lamblia (Portland 1 strain) cultures were exposed to different concentrations of curcumin. Its effects were evaluated on parasite growth, adhesion capacity and parasite morphology. We also evaluated the capacity of curcumin to induce an apoptosis-like effect. All curcumin concentrations inhibited trophozoite growth and adhesion in more than 50% in dose and time dependent manner. Morphological changes were described as protrusions formed under the cytoplasmic membrane, deformation due to swelling and cell agglutination. Curcumin induced apoptosis-like nuclear staining in dose and time dependent manner. In conclusion, curcumin exhibited a cytotoxic effect in G. lamblia inhibiting the parasite growth and adherent capacity, induced morphological alterations, provoked apoptosis-like changes. Future in vitro and in vivo experiments are endowed to elucidate the effect of curcumin in an experimental model of G. lamblia infection, analyze the involvement of ion channels in the swelling effect of curcumin during an apparent osmotic deregulation in G. lamblia trophozoites. This will lead to the proposal of the action mechanism of curcumin as well as the description of mechanism involved during the activation process for the apoptotic-like effect.

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