Affiliation: Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Langgass-Strasse 122, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland.
The thiazolide nitazoxanide (2-acetolyloxy-N-(5-nitro 2-thiazolyl) benzamide; NTZ) is composed of a nitrothiazole- ring and a salicylic acid moiety, which are linked together through an amide bond. NTZ exhibits a broad spectrum of activities against a wide range of helminths, protozoa, enteric bacteria, and viruses infecting animals and humans. Since the first synthesis of the drug, a number of derivatives of NTZ have been produced, which are collectively named thiazolides. These are modified versions of NTZ, which include the replacement of the nitro group with bromo-, chloro-, or other functional groups, and the differential positioning of methyl- and methoxy-groups on the salicylate ring. The presence of a nitro group seems to be the prerequisite for activities against anaerobic or microaerophilic parasites and bacteria. Intracellular parasites and viruses, however, are susceptible to non-nitro-thiazolides with equal or higher effectiveness. Moreover, nitro- and bromo-thiazolides are effective against proliferating mammalian cells. Biochemical and genetic approaches have allowed the identification of respective targets and the molecular basis of resistance formation. Collectively, these studies strongly suggest that NTZ and other thiazolides exhibit multiple mechanisms of action. In microaerophilic bacteria and parasites, the reduction of the nitro group into a toxic intermediate turns out to be the key factor. In proliferating mammalian cells, however, bromo- and nitro-thiazolides trigger apoptosis, which may also explain their activities against intracellular pathogens. The mode of action against helminths may be similar to mammalian cells but has still not been elucidated.