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Antiparasitic effect of stilbene and terphenyl compounds against trypanosoma cruzi parasites

  • Authors: Bruno F.; Castelli G.; Vitale F.; Catanzaro S.; Badaco V.V.; Roberti M.; Colomba C.; Cascio A.; Tolomeo M.
  • Publication year: 2021
  • Type: Articolo in rivista
  • OA Link:


Background: Chagas disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. No progress in the treatment of this pathology has been made since Nifurtimox was introduced more than fifty years ago, and this drug is considered very aggressive and may cause several adverse effects. This drug currently has severe limitations, including a high frequency of undesirable side effects and limited efficacy and availability, so research to discover new drugs for the treatment of Chagas disease is imperative. Many drugs available on the market are natural products as found in nature or compounds designed based on the structure and activity of these natural products. Methods: This study evaluated the in vitro antiparasitic activity of a series of previously synthesized stilbene and terphenyl compounds in T. cruzi epimastigotes and intracellular amastigotes. The action of the most selective compounds was investigated by flow cytometric analysis to evaluate the mechanism of cell death. The ability to induce apoptosis or caspase-1 inflammasomes was assayed in macrophages infected with T. cruzi after treatment, comparing it with that of Nifurtimox. Results: The stilbene ST18 was the most potent compound of the series. It was slightly less active than Nifurtimox in epimastigotes but most active in intracellular amastigotes. Compared to Nifurtimox, it was markedly less cytotoxic when tested in vitro on normal cells. ST18 was able to induce a marked increase in parasites positive for Annexin V and monodansylcadaverine. Moreover, ST18 induced the activation, in infected macrophages, of caspase-1, a conserved enzyme that plays a major role in controlling parasitemia, host survival and the onset of the adaptive immune response in Trypanosoma infection. Conclusions: The antiparasitic activity of ST18 together with its ability to activate caspase-1 in infected macrophages and its low toxicity toward normal cells makes this compound interesting for further clinical investigation.