Development of Novel Anti-Leishmanials: The Case for Structure-Based Approaches
The neglected tropical disease (NTD) leishmaniasis is the collective name given to a diverse group of illnesses caused by ~20 species belonging to the genus Leishmania, a majority of which are vector borne and associated with complex life cycles that cause immense health, social, and economic burdens locally, but individually are not a major global health priority. Therapeutic approaches against leishmaniasis have various inadequacies including drug resistance and a lack of effective control and eradication of the disease spread. Therefore, the development of a rationale-driven, target based approaches towards novel therapeutics against leishmaniasis is an emergent need. The utilization of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning methods, which have made significant advances in drug discovery applications, would benefit the discovery process. In this review, following a summary of the disease epidemiology and available therapies, we consider three important leishmanial metabolic pathways that can be attractive targets for a structure-based drug discovery approach towards the development of novel anti-leishmanials. The folate biosynthesis pathway is critical, as Leishmania is auxotrophic for folates that are essential in many metabolic pathways. Leishmania can not synthesize purines de novo, and salvage them from the host, making the purine salvage pathway an attractive target for novel therapeutics. Leishmania also possesses an organelle glycosome, evolutionarily related to peroxisomes of higher eukaryotes, which is essential for the survival of the parasite. Research towards therapeutics is underway against enzymes from the first two pathways, while the third is as yet unexplored.