Caspofungin: a major breakthrough in treatment of systemic fungal infections

M B Agarwal, S A Rathi, N Ratho, R Subramanian
Journal of the Association of Physicians of India 2006, 54: 943-8
Invasive fungal infections are difficult to eradicate especially in immuno-compromised host. Amphotericin B and voriconazole have been the mainstay of treatment but both have significant toxicity. Caspofungin belongs to a new class of antifungal agents, the echinocandins. It acts on the fungal cell wall by selective inhibition of beta-(1,3)-D-glucan syntheses, which is not present in mammalian cells. In vitro data and experimental studies have demonstrated that it has antifungal activity against yeasts of the genus Candida (including those resistant to amphotericin B and azoles), severe species of filamentous fungi, including aspergillosis and certain dimorphic fungi. As an empirical antifungal therapy in neutropenic patients, it has comparable clinical efficacy but superior tolerability compared with liposomal amphotericin B. In patients with invasive candidiasis, it is as effective as amphotericin B deoxycholate. In addition, it showed a significantly superior safety profile. Same has been shown in patients with oropharyngeal/oesophageal candidiasis. In patients with invasive aspergillosis refractory to or intolerant to other antifungal agents, 45% showed a partial or complete response to Caspofungin given as a salvage treatment. Caspofungin is cidal for all Candida species and is static against Aspergillus species. It also possesses activity against Pneumocystis jiroveci. In vitro and in animals, Caspofungin shows additive or synergic antifungal activity with amphotericin B and triazoles. Recently, it's use in paediatric patients, including after bone marrow transplantation, has also been shown to be safe. With compare to other antifungal agents known to be effective in systemic fungal infections, Caspofungin has the best safety profile, tolerability with very low potential for drug interactions. This makes Caspofungin an interesting and extremely valuable new antifungal agent that broadens the available therapeutic armamentarium for the treatment of systemic fungal infections.


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