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Echinocandins: A ray of hope in antifungal drug therapy

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Author(s): Grover Neeta

Journal: Indian Journal of Pharmacology
ISSN 0253-7613

Volume: 42;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 9;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Anidulafungin | candidemia | caspofungin | echinocandins | esophageal candidiasis | invasive aspergillosis | invasive candidiasis | micafungin

ABSTRACT
Invasive fungal infections are on the rise. Amphotericin B and azole antifungals have been the mainstay of antifungal therapy so far. The high incidence of infusion related toxicity and nephrotoxicity with amphotericin B and the emergence of fluconazole resistant strains of Candida glabrata egged on the search for alternatives. Echinocandins are a new class of antifungal drugs that act by inhibition of β (1, 3)-D- glucan synthase, a key enzyme necessary for integrity of the fungal cell wall. Caspofungin was the first drug in this class to be approved. It is indicated for esophageal candidiasis, candidemia, invasive candidiasis, empirical therapy in febrile neutropenia and invasive aspergillosis. Response rates are comparable to those of amphotericin B and fluconazole. Micafungin is presently approved for esophageal candidiasis, for prophylaxis of candida infections in patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) and in disseminated candidiasis and candidemia. The currently approved indications for anidulafungin are esophageal candidiasis, candidemia and invasive candidiasis. The incidence of infusion related adverse effects and nephrotoxicity is much lower than with amphotericin B. The main adverse effect is hepatotoxicity and derangement of serum transaminases. Liver function may need to be monitored. They are, however, safer in renal impairment. Even though a better pharmacoeconomical choice than amphotericin B, the higher cost of these drugs in comparison to azole antifungals is likely to limit their use to azole resistant cases of candidial infections and as salvage therapy in invasive aspergillosis rather than as first line drugs.
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