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The intestinal parasites Giardia lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica are major causes of morbidity and mortality associated with diarrheal diseases. Metronidazole is the most common drug used to treat giardiasis and amebiasis. Despite its efficacy, treatment failures in giardiasis occur in up to 5%-40% of cases. Potential resistance of E. histolytica to metronidazole is an increasing concern. Therefore, it is critical to search for more effective drugs to treat giardiasis and amebiasis. We identified antigiardial and antiamebic activities of the rediscovered nitroimidazole compound, fexinidazole, and its sulfone and sulfoxide metabolites. Fexinidazole is equally active against E. histolytica and G. lamblia trophozoites, and both metabolites were 3- to 18-fold more active than the parent drug. Fexinidazole and its metabolites were also active against a metronidazole-resistant strain of G. lamblia. G. lamblia and E. histolytica cell extracts exhibited decreased residual nitroreductase activity when metabolites were used as substrates, indicating nitroreductase may be central to the mechanism of action of fexinidazole. In a cell invasion model, fexinidazole and its metabolites significantly reduced the invasiveness of E. histolytica trophozoites through basement membrane matrix. A q.d. oral dose of fexinidazole and its metabolites at 10 mg/kg for 3 days reduced G. lamblia infection significantly in mice compared to control. The newly discovered antigiardial and antiamebic activities of fexinidazole, combined with its FDA-approval and inclusion in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for the treatment of human African trypanosomiasis, offer decreased risk and a shortened development timeline toward clinical use of fexinidazole for treatment of giardiasis or amebiasis.


Jose Ignacio Escrig, Yukiko Miyamoto, Alejandro Delgado Aznar, Lars Eckmann, Anjan Debnath. Antigiardial and antiamebic activities of fexinidazole and its metabolites: new drug leads for giardiasis and amebiasis. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy. 2024 Jan 10;68(1):e0073123

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PMID: 38063401

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