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Onchocerciasis (river blindness), caused by the filarial worm Onchocerca volvulus, is a neglected tropical disease mostly affecting sub-Saharan Africa and is responsible for >1.3 million years lived with disability. Current control relies almost entirely on ivermectin, which suppresses symptoms caused by the first-stage larvae (microfilariae) but does not kill the long-lived adults. Here, we evaluated emodepside, a semi-synthetic cyclooctadepsipeptide registered for deworming applications in companion animals, for activity against adult filariae (i.e., as a macrofilaricide). We demonstrate the equivalence of emodepside activity on SLO-1 potassium channels in Onchocerca volvulus and Onchocerca ochengi, its sister species from cattle. Evaluation of emodepside in cattle as single or 7-day treatments at two doses (0.15 and 0.75 mg/kg) revealed rapid activity against microfilariae, prolonged suppression of female worm fecundity, and macrofilaricidal effects by 18 months post treatment. The drug was well tolerated, causing only transiently increased blood glucose. Female adult worms were mostly paralyzed; however, some retained metabolic activity even in the multiple high-dose group. These data support ongoing clinical development of emodepside to treat river blindness.


Germanus S Bah, Sebastian Schneckener, Steffen R Hahnel, Nicolas H Bayang, Helena Fieseler, Gabriele M Schmuck, Ralph Krebber, Anouk Sarr, Carsten Terjung, Henrietta F Ngangyung, David D Ekale, Youssouf M Mfopit, Lucien Rufener, John Graham-Brown, Vincent N Tanya, Martin Glenschek-Sieberth, Daniel Kulke, Benjamin L Makepeace. Emodepside targets SLO-1 channels of Onchocerca ochengi and induces broad anthelmintic effects in a bovine model of onchocerciasis. PLoS pathogens. 2021 Jun;17(6):e1009601

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PMID: 34077488

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