Repurposing auranofin as a Clostridioides difficile therapeutic

Melanie L. Hutton, Havva Pehlivanoglu, Callum J. Vidor, Meagan L. James, Melanie J. Thomson, Dena Lyras

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Clostridioides difficile (previously Clostridium difficile) is the leading cause of nosocomial, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea worldwide. Currently, the gold standard of treatment for C. difficile infection (CDI) is vancomycin or metronidazole, although these antibiotics also perturb the protective resident microbiota, often resulting in disease relapse. Thus, an urgent need remains for the development of new treatment strategies. Auranofin is an FDA-approved oral antirheumatic drug that was previously shown to inhibit C. difficile vegetative cell growth, toxin production and spore production in vitro. Objectives: To determine the efficacy of auranofin as a CDI therapeutic by examining the effect of treatment on toxin and spore production in vitro and in vivo, and on disease outcomes in mice. Methods: C. difficile cultures were treated with auranofin and examined for effects on sporulation and toxin production by sporulation assay and ELISA, respectively. Mice were pretreated with auranofin prior to infection with C. difficile and monitored for physiological conditions, survival and gut damage compared with control animals. Faeces from mice were analysed to determine whether auranofin reduces sporulation and toxin production in vivo. Results: Auranofin significantly reduces sporulation and toxin production under in vitro conditions and in infected mice in vivo. Mice treated with auranofin lost less weight, displayedh a significant increase in survival rates and had significantly less toxin-mediated damage in their colon and caecum compared with control mice. Conclusions: Auranofin shows promise as a prospective therapeutic option for C. difficile infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-417
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

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