Specific Cell Targeting Therapy Bypasses Drug Resistance Mechanisms in African Trypanosomiasis

Juan D Unciti-Broceta, José L Arias, José Maceira, Miguel Soriano, Matilde Ortiz-González, José Hernández-Quero, Manuel Muñóz-Torres, Harry P de Koning, Stefan Magez, José A Garcia-Salcedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Citations (Scopus)


African trypanosomiasis is a deadly neglected disease caused by the extracellular parasite Trypanosoma brucei. Current therapies are characterized by high drug toxicity and increasing drug resistance mainly associated with loss-of-function mutations in the transporters involved in drug import. The introduction of new antiparasitic drugs into therapeutic use is a slow and expensive process. In contrast, specific targeting of existing drugs could represent a more rapid and cost-effective approach for neglected disease treatment, impacting through reduced systemic toxicity and circumventing resistance acquired through impaired compound uptake. We have generated nanoparticles of chitosan loaded with the trypanocidal drug pentamidine and coated by a single domain nanobody that specifically targets the surface of African trypanosomes. Once loaded into this nanocarrier, pentamidine enters trypanosomes through endocytosis instead of via classical cell surface transporters. The curative dose of pentamidine-loaded nanobody-chitosan nanoparticles was 100-fold lower than pentamidine alone in a murine model of acute African trypanosomiasis. Crucially, this new formulation displayed undiminished in vitro and in vivo activity against a trypanosome cell line resistant to pentamidine as a result of mutations in the surface transporter aquaglyceroporin 2. We conclude that this new drug delivery system increases drug efficacy and has the ability to overcome resistance to some anti-protozoal drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1004942
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


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