Potent in vivo anti-malarial activity and representative snapshot pharmacokinetic evaluation of artemisinin-quinoline hybrids

BACKGROUND:Because Plasmodium falciparum displays increase tolerance against the recommended artemisinin combination therapies (ACT), new classes of anti-malarial drugs are urgently required. Previously synthesized artemisinin-aminoquinoline hybrids were evaluated to ascertain whether the potent low nanomolar in vitro anti-plasmodial activity would carry over in vivo against Plasmodium vinckei. A snapshot pharmacokinetic analysis was carried out on one of the hybrids to obtain an indication of the pharmacokinetic properties of this class of anti-malarial drugs. METHODS: In vitro activity of hybrids 2 and 3 were determined against the 3D7 strain of P. falciparum. Plasmodium vinckei-infected mice were treated with hybrids 1 - 3 for four days at a dosage of 0.8mg/kg, 2.5mg/kg, 7.5mg/kg or 15mg/kg intraperitoneally (ip), or orally (per os) with 2.7mg/kg, 8.3mg/kg, 25mg/kg or 50mg/kg. Artesunate was used as reference drug. A snapshot oral and IV pharmacokinetic study was performed on hybrid 2. RESULTS: Hybrids 1 - 3 displayed potent in vivo anti-malarial activity with ED50 of 1.1, 1.4 and <0.8mg/kg by the ip route and 12, 16 and 13mg/kg per os, respectively. Long-term monitoring of parasitaemia showed a complete cure of mice (without recrudescence) at 15mg/kg via ip route and at 50mg/kg by oral route for hybrid 1 and 2, whereas artesunate was only able to provide a complete cure at 30mg/kg ip and 80mg/kg per os. CONCLUSIONS: These compounds provide a new class of desperately needed anti-malarial drug. Despite a short half-life and moderate oral bioavailability, this class of compounds was able to cure malaria in mice at very low dosages. The optimum linker length for anti-malarial activity was found to be a diaminoalkyl chain consisting of two carbon atoms either methylated or unmethylated.