Evaluation of trypanocidal activity of combinations of anti-sleeping sickness drugs with cysteine protease inhibitors

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Chemotherapy of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is unsatisfactory because only a few drugs, with serious side effects and poor efficacy, are available. As drug combination regimes often achieve greater therapeutic efficacy than monotherapies, here the trypanocidal activity of the cysteine protease inhibitor K11777 in combination with current anti-HAT drugs using bloodstream forms of Trypanosoma brucei was investigated. Isobolographic analysis was used to determine the interaction between cysteine protease inhibitors (K11777, CA-074Me and CAA0225) and anti-HAT drugs (suramin, pentamidine, melarsoprol and eflornithine). Bloodstream forms of T. brucei were incubated in culture medium containing cysteine protease inhibitors or anti-HAT drugs alone or in combination at a 1:1 fixed-dose ratio. After 48 h incubation, live cells were counted, the 50% growth inhibition values determined and combination indices calculated. The general cytotoxicity of drug combinations was evaluated with human leukemia HL-60 cells. Combinations of K11777 with suramin, pentamidine and melarsoprol showed antagonistic effects while with eflornithine a synergistic effect was observed. Whereas eflornithine antagonises with CA-074Me, an inhibitor inactivating the targeted TbCATL only under reducing conditions, it synergises with CAA0255, an inhibitor structurally related to CA-074Me which inactivates TbCATL independently of thiols. These findings indicate an essential role of thiols for the synergistc interaction between K11777 and eflornithine. Encouragingly, the K11777/eflornithine combination displayed higher trypanocidal than cytotoxic activity. The results of this study suggest that the combination of the cysteine protease inhibitor K11777 and eflornithine display promising synergistic trypanocidal activity that warrants further investigation of the drug combination as possible alternative treatment of HAT.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-33
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental Parasitology
Early online date4 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Trypanosoma brucei
  • Cysteine protease inhibitors
  • Anti-sleeping sickness drugs
  • Drug combination

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