Short-course combination treatment for experimental chronic Chagas disease

Silvia González, Richard J. Wall, John Thomas, Stephanie Braillard, Gino Brunori, Isabel Camino Díaz, Juan Cantizani, Sandra Carvalho, Pablo Castañeda Casado Eric Chatelain, Ignacio Cotillo, Jose M. Fiandor, Amanda Fortes Francisco, David Grimsditch, Martine Keenan, John M. Kelly, Albane Kessler, Chiara Luise, Jon J. Lyon, Lorna Maclean, Maria Marco, J. Julio Martin, Maria S. Martinez Martinez, Christy Paterson, Kevin D. Read, Angel Santos-Villarejo, Fabio Zuccotto, Susan Wyllie, Tim J. Miles, and Manu De Rycker.

Science Translational Medicine vo15. no 726. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.adg8105


Chagas disease, caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, affects millions of people in the Americas and across the world, leading to considerable morbidity and mortality. Current treatment options, benznidazole (BNZ) and nifurtimox, offer limited efficacy and often lead to adverse side effects because of long treatment durations. Better treatment options are therefore urgently required. Here, we describe a pyrrolopyrimidine series, identified through phenotypic screening, that offers an opportunity to improve on current treatments. In vitro cell-based washout assays demonstrate that compounds in the series are incapable of killing all parasites; however, combining these pyrrolopyrimidines with a subefficacious dose of BNZ can clear all parasites in vitro after 5 days. These findings were replicated in a clinically predictive in vivo model of chronic Chagas disease, where 5 days of treatment with the combination was sufficient to prevent parasite relapse. Comprehensive mechanism of action studies, supported by ligand-structure modeling, show that compounds from this pyrrolopyrimidine series inhibit the Qi active site of T. cruzi cytochrome b, part of the cytochrome bc1 complex of the electron transport chain. Knowledge of the molecular target enabled a cascade of assays to be assembled to evaluate selectivity over the human cytochrome b homolog. As a result, a highly selective and efficacious lead compound was identified. The combination of our lead compound with BNZ rapidly clears T. cruzi parasites, both in vitro and in vivo, and shows great potential to overcome key issues associated with currently available treatments.