More than 21 million people in Africa are infected with the threadworm Onchocerca volvulus, the pathogen causing river blindness. About one in ten of those affected goes blind. What is needed are active agents that kill the long-lived adult worms. With Corallopyronin A, DZIF scientists have found an active ingredient that can do just that. The natural substance antibiotic initially destroys not the worms themselves, but the bacteria that live in the worms as symbionts. However, since the bacteria are necessary for the survival of the worms, they also die in the second step. The substance is now being developed into a drug. Preclinical trials are currently underway. The production process for a high-quality Corallopyronin A according to drug standard (GMP) has already been established. The scalability of this process is being assessed in a feasibility study.
Corallopyronin A, which originates from an environmental bacterium, was already identified by scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in the 1980s as an effective antibiotic against staphylococci. When Prof. Achim Hörauf's team at the University of Bonn then discovered its effectiveness against filariae, which have devastating consequences for those affected, particularly in Africa and other tropical regions, scientists at the DZIF took a closer look at the substance for an application. Translational research is currently in the final phase of preclinical testing of Corallopyronin A. It has shown to be an antibiotic that is effective against numerous bacteria (Gram- positive and intracellular Gram-negative bacteria) and against members of the filarial worm group.
In collaboration with the HZI, a biotechnological process has already been established to produce the substance in sufficient concentration and purity for toxicity testing. A manufacturing company that can produce the antibiotic on a large scale for clinical trials is currently being sought and discussions are ongoing with several international interested parties.