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Fexinidazole is a novel oral treatment for human African trypanosomiasis caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense (g-HAT). Fexinidazole also has activity against T. cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease. During the course of a dose ranging assessment in patients with chronic indeterminate Chagas disease, delayed neutropenia and significant increases in hepatic transaminases were observed and clinical investigations were suspended. We retrospectively analyzed all available pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data on fexinidazole in normal healthy volunteers and in patients with Chagas disease and g-HAT to assess the determinants of toxicity. A population pharmacokinetic model was fitted to plasma concentrations (n = 4,549) of the bioactive fexinidazole sulfone metabolite, accounting for the majority of the bioactive exposure, from three phase 1 studies, two g-HAT phase 2/3 field trials, and one Chagas disease phase 2 field trial (n = 462 individuals in total). Bayesian exposure-response models were then fitted to hematological and liver-related pharmacodynamic outcomes in Chagas disease patients. Neutropenia, reductions in platelet counts, and elevations in liver transaminases were all found to be exposure dependent and, thus, dose dependent in patients with Chagas disease. Clinically insignificant transient reductions in neutrophil and platelet counts consistent with these exposure-response relationships were observed in patients with g-HAT. In contrast, no evidence of hepatotoxicity was observed in patients with g-HAT. Fexinidazole treatment results in a dose-dependent liver toxicity and transient bone marrow suppression in Chagas disease patients. Regimens of shorter duration should be evaluated in clinical trials with patients with Chagas disease. The currently recommended regimen for sleeping sickness provides exposures within a satisfactory safety margin for bone marrow suppression and does not cause hepatotoxicity.

Original publication





Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy

Publication Date





Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand