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Anthelmintic effect of papain on Heligmosomoides bakeri

Anthelmintics or antihelminthics are a group of antiparasitic drugs that expel parasitic worms (helminths) and other internal parasites from the body by either stunning or killing them and without causing significant damage to the host. They may also be called vermifuges (those that stun) or vermicides (those that kill). Anthelmintics are used to treat people who are infected by helminths, a condition called helminthiasis. These drugs are also used to treat infected animals, particularly small ruminants such as goats and sheep.[1]

Anthelmintic medication is also used in mass deworming campaigns of school-aged children in many developing countries.[2][3] Anthelmintics are also used for mass deworming of livestock. The drugs of choice for soil-transmitted helminths are mebendazole and albendazole;[4] for schistosomiasis and tapeworms it is praziquantel.[5]



Many early treatments were herbal, such as the oil of herbs of the genus Chenopodium that were given as anthelmintic treatment for centuries. In 1908 it was found that the active constituent was ascaridole.[6] From the 1920s to the 1970s, halogenated hydrocarbons were used in a string of continually more efficacious anthelmintics, until their underlying host toxicity was revealed.[6] The modern broad-spectrum anthelmintics were developed by pharmaceutical companies that can afford the screening programs and testing systems that modern drug development involves.[6][7]

Historically, there have been three main classes of broad-spectrum anthelmintics.[8] These are benzimidazoles, imidazothiazoles/tetrahydropyrimidines, and macrocyclic lactones.

The benzimidazole nucleus

Anthelmintic resistance


Anthelmintic resistance occurs when a heritable genetic change occurs in the parasite's DNA, rendering it insensitive to a previously effective anthelmintic drug. This is a particularly serious problem in helminth parasites of small ruminant farm animals.[12] There are many factors that contribute to anthelmintic resistance, such as frequent, mass anthelmintic treatment, underdosing, treating repeatedly with only one anthelmintic, and resistance being transmitted during transfer of animals.[12] Anthelmintic resistance in parasites is widespread; drug resistance exists in all livestock hosts and to all anthelmintic drug classes.[13] This is a major threat to the sustainability of modern ruminant livestock production, resulting in reduced productivity, compromised animal health and welfare,[12] and increased greenhouse gas emissions through increased parasitism and farm inputs.[14] A database of published and unpublished European AR research on gastrointestinal nematodes was collated in 2020. A total of 197 publications were available for analysis, representing 535 studies in 22 countries and spanning the period 1980–2020. Results in sheep and goats since 2010 reveal an average prevalence of resistance to benzimidazoles of 86%, moxidectin 52%, and levamisole 48%. All major gastrointestinal nematode genera survived treatment in various studies. In cattle, prevalence of anthelminthic resistance varied between anthelmintic classes from 0–100% (benzimidazoles and macrocyclic lactones), 0–17% (levamisole) and 0–73% (moxidectin), and both Cooperia and Ostertagia survived treatment.[14] However, resistance is not seen as often in the parasitic helminths that affect cattle, compared to sheep. Reasons for this include the fact that cattle receive anthelminthic drugs less frequently than sheep, and the different nature of their faecal pats that could leave different numbers of resistant infective larvae on the pasture.[7] Unlike sheep, cattle can develop sufficient immunoprotection against such parasites.[15]

Both in vitro (egg hatch assay, larval development test, larval motility test, polymerase chain reaction and in vivo methods (fecal egg count reduction test) can be used to detect anthelmintic resistance.[11]  

Treatment with an antihelminthic drug kills worms whose phenotype renders them susceptible to the drug, but resistant parasites survive and pass on their "resistance" genes. Resistant varieties accumulate, and treatment failure finally occurs.[16]

The ways in which anthelmintics are used have contributed to a major anthelmintic resistance issue worldwide. From the 1950s to the 1980s, new classes of effective and inexpensive anthelmintics were made available every decade, leading to excessive use throughout agriculture and disincentivizing alternative anti-nematodal strategies.[13] Developing new anthelmintics is time consuming and expensive therefore, it is important to use the ones that currently exist in a way that will minimize or prevent the development of anthelmintic resistance.[11] Some of these methods are ensuring animals are not being underdosed, rotating the anthelmintics that are being used, and rotation of grazing land to reduce the parasite population.[1] Other methods include using a combination of multiple different anthelmintics, and the use of refugia based strategies. Refugia refers to the portion of the parasite population not being exposed to anthelmintics. This population is therefore not undergoing selection for resistance. Use of refugia helps to slow down the speed of evolution of resistance to anthelmintic drugs.[17] Due to the problem of anthelmintic resistance, research into alternatives is continuing, including in the field of rational drug design.[18]

See also



  1. ^ a b Praslicka, J.; Várady, M.; Corba, J.; Veselý, L. (March 1994). "A survey of anthelmintic resistance in Slovakia". Veterinary Parasitology. 52 (1–2): 169–171. doi:10.1016/0304-4017(94)90048-5. ISSN 0304-4017. PMID 8030184.
  2. ^ WHO (2006). Preventive chemotherapy in human helminthiasis: coordinated use of anthelminthic drugs in control interventions: a manual for health professionals and programme managers (PDF). WHO Press, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. pp. 1–61. ISBN 9241547103.
  3. ^ Albonico, Marco; Allen, Henrietta; Chitsulo, Lester; Engels, Dirk; Gabrielli, Albis-Francesco; Savioli, Lorenzo; Brooker, Simon (2008). "Controlling Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis in Pre-School-Age Children through Preventive Chemotherapy". PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 2 (3): e126. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000126. PMC 2274864. PMID 18365031.
  4. ^ Taylor-Robinson, David C.; Maayan, Nicola; Donegan, Sarah; Chaplin, Marty; Garner, Paul (11 September 2019). "Public health deworming programmes for soil-transmitted helminths in children living in endemic areas". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 9 (11): CD000371. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000371.pub7. ISSN 1469-493X. PMC 6737502. PMID 31508807.
  5. ^ "Helminth control in school-age children" (PDF). World Health Organization. 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Bennet-Jenkins, E.; Bryant, C. (1996). "Novel sources of anthelmintics". International Journal for Parasitology. 26 (8–9): 937–947. doi:10.1016/s0020-7519(96)80068-3. ISSN 0020-7519. PMID 8923141.
  7. ^ a b Williams, J. C. (November 1997b). "Anthelmintic treatment strategies: current status and future". Veterinary Parasitology. 72 (3–4): 461–470, discussion 470–477. doi:10.1016/s0304-4017(97)00111-8. ISSN 0304-4017. PMID 9460212.
  8. ^ a b c d Gilleard, John Stuart (October 2006). "Understanding anthelmintic resistance: the need for genomics and genetics". International Journal for Parasitology. 36 (12): 1227–1239. doi:10.1016/j.ijpara.2006.06.010. ISSN 0020-7519. PMID 16889782.
  9. ^ Hagel I, Giusti T (October 2010). "Ascaris lumbricoides: an overview of therapeutic targets". Infect Disord Drug Targets. 10 (5): 349–67. doi:10.2174/187152610793180876. PMID 20701574. new anthelmintic alternatives such as tribendimidine and Nitazoxanide have proved to be safe and effective against A. lumbricoides and other soil-transmitted helminthiases in human trials.
  10. ^ Shoff WH (5 October 2015). Chandrasekar PH, Talavera F, King JW (eds.). "Cyclospora Medication". Medscape. WebMD. Retrieved 11 January 2016. Nitazoxanide, a 5-nitrothiazole derivative with broad-spectrum activity against helminths and protozoans, has been shown to be effective against C cayetanensis, with an efficacy 87% by the third dose (first, 71%; second 75%). Three percent of patients had minor side effects.
  11. ^ Veterinary Parasitology
  12. ^ a b c Wolstenholme, Adrian J.; Fairweather, Ian; Prichard, Roger; von Samson-Himmelstjerna, Georg; Sangster, Nicholas C. (October 2004). "Drug resistance in veterinary helminths". Trends in Parasitology. 20 (10): 469–476. doi:10.1016/j.pt.2004.07.010. ISSN 1471-4922. PMID 15363440.
  13. ^ a b Kaplan, Ray M. (October 2004). "Drug resistance in nematodes of veterinary importance: a status report". Trends in Parasitology. 20 (10): 477–481. doi:10.1016/j.pt.2004.08.001. ISSN 1471-4922. PMID 15363441.
  14. ^ a b Rose Vineer, Hannah; Morgan, Eric R.; Hertzberg, Hubertus; Bartley, David J.; Bosco, Antonio; Charlier, Johannes; Chartier, Christophe; Claerebout, Edwin; de Waal, Theo; Hendrickx, Guy; Hinney, Barbara; Höglund, Johan; Ježek, Jožica; Kašný, Martin; Keane, Orla M.; Martínez-Valladares, María; Mateus, Teresa Letra; McIntyre, Jennifer; Mickiewicz, Marcin; Munoz, Ana Maria; Phythian, Clare Joan; Ploeger, Harm W.; Rataj, Aleksandra Vergles; Skuce, Philip J.; Simin, Stanislav; Sotiraki, Smaragda; Spinu, Marina; Stuen, Snorre; Thamsborg, Stig Milan; Vadlejch, Jaroslav; Varady, Marian; von Samson-Himmelstjerna, Georg; Rinaldi, Laura (2020). "Increasing importance of anthelmintic resistance in European livestock: creation and meta-analysis of an open database". Parasite. 27: 69. doi:10.1051/parasite/2020062. ISSN 1776-1042. PMC 7718593. PMID 33277891. Open access icon
  15. ^ Sager, Heinz; Hosking, Barry; Bapst, Béatrice; Stein, Philip; Vanhoff, Kathleen; Kaminsky, Ronald (2009-01-22). "Efficacy of the amino-acetonitrile derivative, monepantel, against experimental and natural adult stage gastro-intestinal nematode infections in sheep". Veterinary Parasitology. 159 (1): 49–54. doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2008.10.006. ISSN 0304-4017. PMID 19019553.
  16. ^ Blackhall, William J.; Prichard, Roger K.; Beech, Robin N. (2008-03-25). "P-glycoprotein selection in strains of Haemonchus contortus resistant to benzimidazoles". Veterinary Parasitology. 152 (1–2): 101–107. doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2007.12.001. ISSN 0304-4017. PMID 18241994.
  17. ^ Pomroy, W. E. (December 2006). "Anthelmintic resistance in New Zealand: a perspective on recent findings and options for the future". New Zealand Veterinary Journal. 54 (6): 265–270. doi:10.1080/00480169.2006.36709. ISSN 0048-0169. PMID 17151723.
  18. ^ Sgro, Christopher David (2009-01-01). An investigation into the interdomain region of Caenorhabditis elegans fatty acid synthase and its implications as a drug target (thesis thesis). La Trobe.


  1. ^ Shalaby, Hatem A. (2013). "Anthelmintics Resistance; How to Overcome it?". Iranian Journal of Parasitology. 8 (1): 18–32. ISSN 1735-7020. PMC 3655236. PMID 23682256.
  2. ^ Fissiha, Workye; Kinde, Mebrie Zemene (2021-12-15). "Anthelmintic Resistance and Its Mechanism: A Review". Infection and Drug Resistance. 14: 5403–5410. doi:10.2147/IDR.S332378. ISSN 1178-6973. PMC 8687516. PMID 34938088.