Cyclosporine has not only virtually revolutionized the field of organ transplantation, but it may have other useful actions. Among the newest discoveries about this powerful agent, which apparently are unrelated to its effects on the immune response, are its antiparasitic effects.
In particular, the drug has been effective in treating schistosomiasis and malaria in experimental animals. "These discoveries represent a major landmark, since these two diseases are thought to affect about a billion people throughout the world," says Jean F. Borel, PhD, of Sandoz Ltd, Basel, Switzerland.
How cyclosporine affects schistosomes is not clear. Apparently it acts synergistically with the antischistosomal agent amoscanate. In addition, primarily in female Schistosoma mansoni recovered from infected, cyclosporine-treated mice, the activity of hemoglobinase as well as the total protein content is markedly reduced.
"Since the flukes feed on hemoglobin, they may be starving to death," Borel speculates. "But why females are preferentially affected is