Efficacy of guanabenz combination therapy against chronic toxoplasmosis across multiple mouse strains

Jennifer Martynowicz, J. Stone Doggett, William J. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular parasite that can cause life-threatening acute disease, differentiates into a quiescent cyst stage to establish lifelong chronic infections in animal hosts, including humans. This tissue cyst reservoir, which can reactivate into an acute infection, is currently refractory to clinically available therapeutics. Recently, we and others have discovered drugs capable of significantly reducing the brain cyst burden in latently infected mice, but not to undetectable levels. In this study, we examined the use of novel combination therapies possessing multiple mechanisms of action in mouse models of latent toxoplasmosis. Our drug regimens included combinations of pyrimethamine, clindamycin, guanabenz, and endochin-like quinolones (ELQs) and were administered to two different mouse strains in an attempt to eradicate brain tissue cysts. We observed mouse strain-dependent effects with these drug treatments: pyrimethamine-guanabenz showed synergistic efficacy in C57BL/6 mice yet did not improve upon guanabenz monotherapy in BALB/c mice. Contrary to promising in vitro results demonstrating toxicity to bradyzoites, we observed an antagonistic effect between guanabenz and ELQ-334 in vivo. While we were unable to completely eliminate the brain cyst burden, we found that a combination treatment with ELQ-334 and pyrimethamine impressively reduced the brain cyst burden by 95% in C57BL/6 mice, which approached the limit of detection. These analyses highlight the importance of evaluating anti-infective drugs in multiple mouse strains and will help inform further preclinical studies of cocktail therapies designed to treat chronic toxoplasmosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00535-20
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Antimicrobial combinations
  • Drug development
  • Guanabenz
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Parasites
  • Toxoplasma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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