The Diterpenoid 7-Keto-Sempervirol, Derived from Lycium chinense, Displays Anthelmintic Activity against both Schistosoma mansoni and Fasciola hepatica

Jennifer Edwards, Martha Brown, Emily Peak, Barbara Bartholomew, Robert J Nash, Karl F Hoffmann

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BACKGROUND: Two platyhelminths of biomedical and commercial significance are Schistosoma mansoni (blood fluke) and Fasciola hepatica (liver fluke). These related trematodes are responsible for the chronic neglected tropical diseases schistosomiasis and fascioliasis, respectively. As no vaccine is currently available for anti-flukicidal immunoprophylaxis, current treatment is mediated by mono-chemical chemotherapy in the form of mass drug administration (MDA) (praziquantel for schistosomiasis) or drenching (triclabendazole for fascioliasis) programmes. This overreliance on single chemotherapeutic classes has dramatically limited the number of novel chemical entities entering anthelmintic drug discovery pipelines, raising significant concerns for the future of sustainable blood and liver fluke control.

METHODOLOGY/ PRINCIPLE FINDINGS: Here we demonstrate that 7-keto-sempervirol, a diterpenoid isolated from Lycium chinense, has dual anthelmintic activity against related S. mansoni and F. hepatica trematodes. Using a microtiter plate-based helminth fluorescent bioassay (HFB), this activity is specific (Therapeutic index = 4.2, when compared to HepG2 cell lines) and moderately potent (LD50 = 19.1 μM) against S. mansoni schistosomula cultured in vitro. This anti-schistosomula effect translates into activity against both adult male and female schistosomes cultured in vitro where 7-keto-sempervirol negatively affects motility/behaviour, surface architecture (inducing tegumental holes, tubercle swelling and spine loss/shortening), oviposition rates and egg morphology. As assessed by the HFB and microscopic phenotypic scoring matrices, 7-keto-sempervirol also effectively kills in vitro cultured F. hepatica newly excysted juveniles (NEJs, LD50 = 17.7 μM). Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) evaluation of adult F. hepatica liver flukes co-cultured in vitro with 7-keto-sempervirol additionally demonstrates phenotypic abnormalities including breaches in tegumental integrity and spine loss.

CONCLUSIONS/ SIGNIFICANCE: 7-keto-sempervirol negatively affects the viability and phenotype of two related pathogenic trematodes responsible for significant human and animal infectious diseases. This plant-derived, natural product is also active against both larval and adult developmental forms. As such, the data collectively indicate that 7-keto-sempervirol is an important starting point for anthelmintic drug development. Medicinal chemistry optimisation of more potent 7-keto-sempervirol analogues could lead to the identification of novel chemical entities useful for future combinatorial or replacement anthelmintic control.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0003604
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anthelmintics/pharmacology
  • Diterpenes/pharmacology
  • Fasciola hepatica/drug effects
  • Female
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lycium/chemistry
  • Male
  • Schistosoma mansoni/drug effects


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