Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine

Review Article

Trypanocidal drugs: mechanisms, resistance and new targets

Shane R. Wilkinsona1 c1 and John M. Kellya2

a1 Queen Mary Pre-Clinical Drug Discovery Group, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, E1 4NS, UK.

a2 Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, WC1E 7HT, UK.


The protozoan parasites Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma cruzi are the causative agents of African trypanosomiasis and Chagas disease, respectively. These are debilitating infections that exert a considerable health burden on some of the poorest people on the planet. Treatment of trypanosome infections is dependent on a small number of drugs that have limited efficacy and can cause severe side effects. Here, we review the properties of these drugs and describe new findings on their modes of action and the mechanisms by which resistance can arise. We further outline how a greater understanding of parasite biology is being exploited in the search for novel chemotherapeutic agents. This effort is being facilitated by new research networks that involve academic and biotechnology/pharmaceutical organisations, supported by public–private partnerships, and are bringing a new dynamism and purpose to the search for trypanocidal agents.


c1 Corresponding author: Shane Wilkinson, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS, UK. Tel: +44 (0)207 882 3057; Fax: +44 (0)20 8983 0973; E-mail: