In the course of a structure-based drug discovery program the known anticancer candidate marimastat was uncovered as a potent inhibitor of an enzyme in nematode cuticle biogenesis. It was shown to kill Caenorhabditis elegans, and the sheep parasites Haemonchus contortus and Teladorsagia circumcinta via an entirely novel nematode-specific pathway, specifically by inhibiting cuticle-remodeling enzymes that the parasites require for the developmentally essential molting process. This discovery prompted an investigation of the compound's effect on Heligmosomoides polygyrus parasites in a mouse model of helminth infection. Mice were administered the drug via oral gavage daily from day of infection for a period of 2 wk. A second group received the drug via intra-peritoneal implantation of an osmotic minipump for 4 wk. Control groups were administered identical volumes of water by oral gavage in both cases. Counts of H. polygyrus fecal egg and larval load showed that marimastat effected a consistent and significant reduction in egg laying, and a consistent but minor reduction in adult worm load when administered every day, starting on the first day of infection. However, the drug failed to have any significant effect on egg counts or worm burdens when administered to mice with established infections. Therefore, marimastat does not appear to show promise as an anthelmintic in gastrointestinal nematode infections, although other metalloproteases such as batimastat may prove more effective.
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Vol. 104 • No. 6