Inhibition of the in vitro growth of Babesia bigemina, Babesia caballi and Theileria equi parasites by trifluralin analogues

Marta G. Silva, Donald P. Knowles, Sandra Antunes, Ana Domingos, Maria A. Esteves, Carlos E. Suarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Bovine and equine babesiosis caused by Babesia bovis, Babesia bigemina and Babesia caballi, along with equine theileriosis caused by Theileria equi are global tick-borne hemoprotozoan diseases characterized by fever, anemia, weight losses and abortions. A common feature of these diseases are transition from acute to chronic phases, in which parasites may persist in the hosts for life. Antiprotozoal drugs are important for managing infection and disease. Previous research demonstrated that trifluralin analogues, designated (TFLAs) 1–15, which specifically bind to regions of alpha-tubulin protein in plants and protozoan parasites, have the ability to inhibit the in vitro growth of B. bovis. The inhibitory activity of TFLAs 1–15 minus TFLA 5 was tested in vitro against cultured B. bigemina, B. caballi and T. equi. The four TFLAs with greatest inhibitory activity were then analyzed for hemolytic activity and toxicity against erythrocytes. All TFLAs tested in the study showed inhibitory effects against the three parasite species. TFLA 2, TFLA 11, TFLA 13 and TFLA 14 were the most effective inhibitors for the three species tested, with estimated IC50 between 5.1 and 10.1 μM at 72 h. The drug's solvent (DMSO/ethanol) did not statistically affect the growth of the parasites nor cause hemolysis. Also, TFLA 2, 13 and 14 did not cause statistically significant hemolytic activity on bovine and equine erythrocytes at 15 μM, and TFLA 2, 11 and 13 had no detectable toxic effects on bovine and equine erythrocytes at 15 μM, suggesting that these drugs do not compromise erythrocyte viability. The demonstrated ability of the trifluralin analogues to inhibit in vitro growth of Babesia spp. and Theileria equi, and their lack of toxic effects on erythrocytes supports further in vivo testing and eventually their development as novel alternatives for the treatment of babesiosis and theileriosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-597
Number of pages5
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Babesia bigemina
  • Babesia caballi
  • Cell viability
  • In vitro inhibition growth
  • Theileria equi
  • Trifluralin analogues


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