The major cysteine proteinase (brucipain) of Trypanosoma brucei is a target for chemotherapy of African Sleeping Sickness. We have screened a non-peptidyl acyl hydrazide proteinase inhibitor library of 500 compounds for inhibition of brucipain. Those 21 compounds with IC(50) values of <40 microM were tested for efficacy against bloodstream forms of T. brucei in cell culture. Eight acyl hydrazides showed 50% or more inhibition of trypanosome replication at <1 microM. The trypanocidal acitivity of the most effective compounds was comparable with those of the commercial antitrypanosomal drugs suramin and diminazene aceturate. However, these acyl hydrazides exhibited varying cytotoxicity towards human HL-60 cells and therefore, only less favourable selectivity indices compared with the commercially available drugs. Nevertheless, the data support the potential of acyl hydrazides as antitrypanosomal chemotherapeutic agents for treatment of sleeping sickness.