Candidiasis is the most common cause of fungal sepsis, and new agents are of interest to ameliorate current deficiencies in therapy. Nikkomycin Z (NIKZ) is an inhibitor of chitin synthase, interfering with fungal cell wall development.
We studied NIKZ therapy of disseminated murine candidiasis, via continuous drug exposure, in drinking water, to compensate for rapid clearance of the drug.
Drinking, and thus drug intake in the NIKZ groups, as well as body weight, was affected by the degree of illness. NIKZ effect on survival, despite reduced drinking initially after infection, was highly efficacious and dose-related, and comparable to fluconazole, though neither were curative with the regimens employed. The challenge was rapidly lethal to all untreated animals, whereas NIKZ groups achieved >50% survival. Assays of residual fungal infection were consistent with impressions of efficacy based on survival. Although NIKZ MIC for Candida albicans appeared unpromising, mycelial formation assays more closely correlated with in vivo observations.
In vitro-in vivo disparity may be explained by NIKZ tissue concentration in the target tissue and/or by enhanced NIKZ action on mycelial formation, a morphological change in vivo wherein chitin synthesis is more critical, compared to NIKZ activity in inhibiting planktonic growth. A sustained release oral form of NIKZ in drug development for humans could hold promise, possibly also in future exploring previously demonstrated synergy in vitro with other antifungals.

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