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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Investigations of the metabolites of the trypanocidal drug melarsoprol.

BACKGROUND: Melarsoprol remains the first-choice drug for trypanosomiasis (human African sleeping sickness). To contribute to the sparse pharmacologic data and to better understand the cause of the frequent serious adverse reactions, we investigated the metabolism of this 50-year-old organoarsenic compound. RESULTS: The half-life of melarsoprol determined by HPLC was <1 hour compared with 35 hours determined by bioassay and atomic absorption spectroscopy, indicating the existence of active metabolites. One metabolite, melarsen oxide, was identified by ultraviolet HPLC after incubation of melarsoprol with microsomes. The maximum plasma concentration of melarsenoxide was reached 15 minutes after administration; the clearance was 21.5 mL/min/kg and the half-life of free melarsen oxide was 3.9 hours. Either melarsen oxide or a yet-undiscovered active metabolite is irreversibly bound to proteins, as shown by ultrafiltration, precipitation experiments, and atomic absorption spectroscopy. Because of the poor pharmaceutical properties of melarsoprol, the therapeutic potential of melarsen oxide was investigated. In a rodent model of acute infection, 20 of 20 mice were cured (0.1 to 1 mg/kg intravenously or 2.2 mg/kg intraperitoneally). In a rodent model of central nervous system infection, five of six mice survived for more than 180 days (5 mg/kg intravenously), indicating a sufficient melarsen oxide penetration across the blood-brain barrier. CONCLUSION: The prospects for the future of trypanosomiasis treatment are deplorable. Investigations on the improvement of the use of the old drugs are therefore required. The results of this study may build a basis for further research on the cause of severe adverse reactions.[1]


  1. Investigations of the metabolites of the trypanocidal drug melarsoprol. Keiser, J., Ericsson, O., Burri, C. Clin. Pharmacol. Ther. (2000) [Pubmed]
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