Limited Ability of Posaconazole To Cure both Acute and Chronic Trypanosoma cruzi Infections Revealed by Highly Sensitive In Vivo Imaging

01 Aug 2015
Francisco AF, Lewis MD, Jayawardhana S, Taylor MC, Chatelain E, Kelly JM.

The antifungal drug posaconazole has shown significant activity against Trypanosoma cruzi in vitro and in experimental murine models. Despite this, in a recent clinical trial it displayed limited curative potential. Drug testing is problematic in experimental Chagas disease because of difficulties in demonstrating sterile cure, particularly during the chronic stage of infection when parasite burden is extremely low and tissue distribution is ill defined. To better assess posaconazole efficacy against acute and chronic Chagas disease, we have exploited a highly sensitive bioluminescence imaging system which generates data with greater accuracy than other methods, including PCR-based approaches. Mice inoculated with bioluminescent T. cruzi were assessed by in vivo and ex vivo imaging, with cyclophosphamide-induced immunosuppression used to enhance the detection of relapse. Posaconazole was found to be significantly inferior to benznidazole as a treatment for both acute and chronic T. cruzi infections. Whereas 20 days treatment with benznidazole was 100% successful in achieving sterile cure, posaconazole failed in almost all cases. Treatment of chronic infections with posaconazole did however significantly reduce infection-induced splenomegaly, even in the absence of parasitological cure. The imaging-based screening system also revealed that adipose tissue is a major site of recrudescence in mice treated with posaconazole in the acute, but not the chronic stage of infection. This in vivo screening model for Chagas disease is predictive, reproducible and adaptable to diverse treatment schedules. It should provide greater assurance that drugs are not advanced prematurely into clinical trial.