Killing the Dead: Chemotherapeutic Strategies Against Free-Living Cyst-Forming Protists (Acanthamoeba sp. and Balamuthia mandrillaris)



N.A. Khan, Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, PakistanTelephone number: 92 (0)21 3486 4540; FAX number: 92 (0)21 3493 4294; e-mail:


The opportunist free-living protists such as Acanthamoeba spp. and Balamuthia mandrillaris have become a serious threat to human life. As most available drugs target functional aspects of pathogens, the ability of free-living protists to transform into metabolically inactive cyst forms presents a challenge in treatment. It is hoped, that the development of broad spectrum antiprotist agents acting against multiple cyst-forming protists to provide target-directed inhibition will offer a viable drug strategy in the treatment of these rare infections. Here, we present a comprehensive report on upcoming drug targets, with emphasis on cyst wall biosynthesis along with the related biochemistry of encystment pathways, as we strive to bring ourselves a step closer to being able to combat these deadly diseases.