Diseases caused by protozoan parasites can pose a severe thread to human health and are behind some serious neglected tropical diseases like malaria and leishmaniasis. Though several different drugs have been developed in order to eradicate these diseases, a successful candidate has not yet been discovered. Among the most active compounds tested, antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are particularly appealing because of their wide spectrum of action. AMPs have been described to perturb protozoan homeostasis by disrupting the cellular membranes but also by interfering with key processes in the parasite metabolism. In this review we describe the diverse mechanisms of action of AMPs on protozoan targets and how they can be exploited to treat diseases. Moreover, we describe with detail the antimicrobial action of AMPs on two major parasitical infections: leishmaniasis and malaria. All the features reviewed here show that AMPs are promising drugs to target protozoan parasites and that further understanding of the mechanism of action of these compounds will lead to improved drugs that could be worth to test in a clinical phase. © 2012 Bentham Science Publishers.
- Antimicrobial peptides