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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1997 Apr;41(4):818-22.

An axenic amastigote system for drug screening.

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U.S. Army Medical Research Unit-Brazil. Heather_Callahan@WRSMTP-CCMAIL.ARMY.MIL


Currently available primary screens for selection of candidate antileishmanial compounds are not ideal. The choices include screens that are designed to closely reflect the situation in vivo but are labor-intensive and expensive (intracellular amastigotes and animal models) and screens that are designed to facilitate rapid testing of a large number of drugs but do not use the clinically relevant parasite stage (promastigote model). The advent of successful in vitro culture of axenic amastigotes permits the development of a primary screen which is quick and easy like the promastigote screen but still representative of the situation in vivo, since it uses the relevant parasite stage. We have established an axenic amastigote drug screening system using a Leishmania mexicana strain (strain M379). A comparison of the 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) drug sensitivity profiles of M379 promastigotes, intracellular amastigotes, and axenic amastigotes for six clinically relevant antileishmanial drugs (sodium stibogluconate, meglumine antimoniate, pentamidine, paromomycin, amphotericin B, WR6026) showed that M379 axenic amastigotes are a good model for a primary drug screen. Promastigote and intracellular amastigote IC50s differed for four of the six drugs tested by threefold or more; axenic amastigote and intracellular amastigote IC50s differed by twofold for only one drug. This shows that the axenic amastigote susceptibility to clinically used reference drugs is comparable to the susceptibility of amastigotes in macrophages. These data also suggest that for the compounds tested, susceptibility is intrinsic to the parasite stage. This contradicts previous hypotheses that suggested that the activities of antimonial agents against intracellular amastigotes were solely a function of the macrophage.

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