A cysteine protease inhibitor rescues mice from a lethal Cryptosporidium parvum infection. Cryptosporidiosis, caused by the protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium parvum, can stunt infant growth and can be lethal in immunocompromised individuals. The most widely used drugs for treating cryptosporidiosis are nitazoxanide and paromomycin, although both exhibit limited efficacy. To investigate an alternative approach to therapy, we demonstrate that the clan CA cysteine protease inhibitor N-methyl piperazine-Phe-homoPhe-vinylsulfone phenyl (K11777) inhibits C. parvum growth in mammalian cell lines in a concentration-dependent manner. K11777 exhibited no toxicity in vitro and in vivo, and surviving animals remained free of parasites 3 weeks after treatment. The discovery that a cysteine protease inhibitor provides potent anticryptosporidial activity in an animal model of infection encourages the investigation and development of this biocide class as a new, and urgently needed, chemotherapy for cryptosporidiosis.
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