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Chem Biol Interact. 1990;73(1):1-27.

Sensitivity of parasites to free radical damage by antiparasitic drugs.

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Rockerfeller University, New York, NY 10021.


Over the last few years a remarkable progress has been made in the understanding of parasites biochemistry, molecular biology, and immunology. This progress is especially encouraging in that emphasis on drug development is shifting from random screening towards a more rational approach. A number of peculiar aspects characteristic of parasites which are not present in other organisms and that might be exploitable for the design of specific agents have been described recently. One of these aspects is their deficiency in defense mechanisms against oxygen toxicity. Catalase is absent in many parasites. Distinct superoxide dismutases have been detected and specific inhibitors of these enzymes have been investigated. Glutathione is absent in some anaerobic protozoa. Peroxidase and reductase activities dependent on a glutathione-spermidine cofactor termed trypanothione have been detected in several trypanosomatids and apparently replace the glutathione peroxidase-glutathione reductase system of other eukaryotic cells. Free radical intermediates have been shown to be involved in the reaction of enzymes present in anaerobic protozoa. In addition, a number of antiparasitic agents have been shown to exert their actions through a free radical metabolism: nitro compounds used against trypanosomatids, anaerobic protozoa and helminths; crystal violet used in blood banks to prevent blood transmission of Chagas' disease; the antimalarial primaquine, chloroquinine, and quinhasou; and quinones active in vitro and in vivo against different parasites.

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