Guanabenz repurposed as an antiparasitic with activity against acute and latent toxoplasmosis

Imaan Benmerzouga, Lisa A. Checkley, Michael T. Ferdig, Gustavo Arrizabalaga, Ronald C. Wek, William J. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that persists as a chronic infection. Toxoplasma evades immunity by forming tissue cysts, which reactivate to cause life-threatening disease during immune suppression. There is an urgent need to identify drugs capable of targeting these latent tissue cysts, which tend to form in the brain. We previously showed that translational control is critical during infections with both replicative and latent forms of Toxoplasma. Here we report that guanabenz, an FDA-approved drug that interferes with translational control, has antiparasitic activity against replicative stages of Toxoplasma and the related apicomplexan parasite Plasmodium falciparum (a malaria agent). We also found that inhibition of translational control interfered with tissue cyst biology in vitro. Toxoplasma bradyzoites present in these abnormal cysts were diminished and misconfigured, surrounded by empty space not seen in normal cysts. These findings prompted analysis of the efficacy of guanabenz in vivo by using established mouse models of acute and chronic toxoplasmosis. In addition to protecting mice from lethal doses of Toxoplasma, guanabenz has a remarkable ability to reduce the number of brain cysts in chronically infected mice. Our findings suggest that guanabenz can be repurposed into an effective antiparasitic with a unique ability to reduce tissue cysts in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6939-6945
Number of pages7
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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