Combination of inhibitors for two glycolytic enzymes portrays high synergistic efficacy against Cryptosporidium parvum

Shahbaz M. Khan, Muhammad Rashid Bajwa, Rachael Y. Lahar, William H. Witola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cryptosporidium is an intracellular protozoan parasite that causes serious enteric disease in humans and in a wide range of animals worldwide. Despite its high prevalence, no effective therapeutic drugs are available against life-threatening cryptosporidiosis in at-risk populations including malnourished children, immunocompromised patients, and neonatal calves. Thus, new efficacious drugs are urgently needed to treat all susceptible populations with cryptosporidiosis. Unlike other apicomplexans, Cryptosporidium parvum lacks the tricarboxylic acid cycle and the oxidative phosphorylation steps, making it solely dependent on glycolysis for metabolic energy production. We have previously reported that individual inhibitors of two unique glycolytic enzymes, the plant-like pyruvate kinase (CpPyK) and the bacterial-type lactate dehydrogenase (CpLDH), are effective against C. parvum, both in vitro and in vivo. Herein, we have derived combinations of CpPyK and CpLDH inhibitors with strong synergistic effects against the growth and survival of C. parvum, both in vitro and in an infection mouse model. In infected immunocompromised mice, compound combinations of NSC303244 + NSC158011 and NSC252172 + NSC158011 depicted enhanced efficacy against C. parvum reproduction and ameliorated intestinal lesions of cryptosporidiosis at doses fourfold lower than the total effective doses of individual compounds. Importantly, unlike individual compounds, NSC303244 + NSC158011 combination was effective in clearing the infection completely without relapse in immunocompromised mice. Collectively, our study has unveiled compound combinations that simultaneously block two essential catalytic steps for metabolic energy production in C. parvum to achieve improved efficacy against the parasite. These combinations are, therefore, lead compounds for the development of a new generation of efficacious anti-cryptosporidial drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • cryptosporidiosis
  • glycolysis molecular targets
  • novel drug combinations
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology


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