Parasites of the phylum Apicomplexa impact humans in nearly all parts of the world, causing diseases including to toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, babesiosis, and malaria. Apicomplexan parasites have complex life cycles comprised of one or more stages characterized by rapid replication and biomass amplification, which enables accelerated evolutionary adaptation to environmental changes, including to drug pressure. The emergence of drug resistant pathogens is a major looming and/or active threat for current frontline chemotherapies, especially for widely used antimalarial drugs. In fact, resistant parasites have been reported against all modern antimalarial drugs within 15 years of clinical introduction, including the current frontline artemisinin-based combination therapies. Chemotherapeutics are a major tool in the public health arsenal for combatting the onset and spread of apicomplexan diseases. All currently approved antimalarial drugs have been discovered either through chemical modification of natural products or through large-scale screening of chemical libraries for parasite death phenotypes, and so far, none have been developed through a gene-to-drug pipeline. However, the limited duration of efficacy of these drugs in the field underscores the need for new and innovative approaches to discover drugs that can counter rapid resistance evolution. This review details both historical and current antimalarial drug discovery approaches. We also highlight new strategies that may be employed to discover resistance-resistant drug targets and chemotherapies in order to circumvent the rapid evolution of resistance in apicomplexan parasites.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)
- Infectious Diseases