With the emergence of Plasmodium falciparum infections exhibiting increased parasite clearance times in response to treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies, the need for new therapeutic agents is urgent. Solithromycin, a potent new fluoroketolide currently in development, has been shown to be an effective, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Malarial parasites possess an unusual organelle, termed the apicoplast, which carries a cryptic genome of prokaryotic origin that encodes its own translation and transcription machinery. Given the similarity of apicoplast and bacterial ribosomes, we have examined solithromycin for antimalarial activity. Other antibiotics known to target the apicoplast, such as the macrolide azithromycin, demonstrate a delayed-death effect, whereby treated asexual blood-stage parasites die in the second generation of drug exposure. Solithromycin demonstrated potent in vitro activity against the NF54 strain of P. falciparum, as well as against two multidrug-resistant strains, Dd2 and 7G8. The dramatic increase in potency observed after two generations of exposure suggests that it targets the apicoplast. Solithromycin also retained potency against azithromycin-resistant parasites derived from Dd2 and 7G8, although these lines did demonstrate a degree of cross-resistance. In an in vivo model of P. berghei infection in mice, solithromycin demonstrated a 100% cure rate when administered as a dosage regimen of four doses of 100 mg/kg of body weight, the same dose required for artesunate or chloroquine to achieve 100% cure rates in this rodent malaria model. These promising in vitro and in vivo data support further investigations into the development of solithromycin as an antimalarial agent.
View the full article on the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy website.