In vitro and in vivo anthelmintic efficacy of plant cysteine proteinases against the rodent gastrointestinal nematode, Trichuris muris

G. STEPEK a1, A. E. LOWE a1, D. J. BUTTLE a2, I. R. DUCE a1 and J. M. BEHNKE a1c1
a1 School of Biology, University Park, University of Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
a2 Division of Genomic Medicine, University of Sheffield S10 2RX, UK

Article author query
stepek g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lowe ae   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
buttle dj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
duce ir   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
behnke jm   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Extracts of plants, such as papaya, pineapple and fig, are known to be effective at killing intestinal nematodes that inhabit anterior sites in the small intestine, such as Heligmosomoides polygyrus. In this paper, we demonstrate that similar in vitro efficacy also occurs against a rodent nematode of the large intestine, Trichuris muris, and confirm that the cysteine proteinases present in the plant extracts are the active principles. The mechanism of action of these enzymes involved an attack on the structural proteins of the nematode cuticle, which was similar to that observed with H. polygyrus. However, not all plant cysteine proteinases were equally efficacious because actinidain, from the juice of kiwi fruit, had no detrimental effect on either the motility of the worms or the nematode cuticle. Papaya latex was also shown to significantly reduce both worm burden and egg output of mice infected with adult T. muris, demonstrating that enzyme activity survived passage to the caecum and was not completely inactivated by the acidity of the host's stomach or destroyed by the gastric or pancreatic proteinases. Thus, the cysteine proteinases from plants may be a much-needed alternative to currently available anthelmintic drugs due to their efficacy and novel mode of action against different gastrointestinal nematode species.

(Received September 2 2005)
(Revised November 18 2005)
(Accepted November 18 2005)
(February 1 2006)

Key Words: plant cysteine proteinases; papaya; fig; pineapple; kiwi fruit; gastrointestinal nematodes; anthelmintic; Trichuris muris.

c1 School of Biology, University Park, University of Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK. Tel: 44 115 951 3208. Fax: 44 115 951 3277. E-mail: