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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Flow cytometry analysis of the effect of allopurinol and the dinitroaniline compound (Chloralin) on the viability and proliferation of Leishmania infantum promastigotes

Sarah W Kamau1*, Rafael Nunez23* and Felix Grimm1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich

2 Institute of Virology, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 266a, 8057 Zürich. Switzerland

3 Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, Box 98, New York, NY 10021 USA

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BMC Pharmacology 2001, 1:1  doi:10.1186/1471-2210-1-1

Published: 5 April 2001



Leishmaniasis is a major parasitic disease in the tropical regions. However, Leishmania infantum has recently emerged as a very important cause of opportunistic infections for individuals positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). However, there is a lack of in vitro tests for assessing the effect of anti-parasitic drugs on the viability and proliferation of Leishmania infantum. The aim of this study is to assess the efficacy of anti-parasitic drugs like allopurinol and Chloralin on the viability and proliferation of L. infantum promastigotes by utilizing two complementary flow cytometric approaches after exposure of the promastigotes to various concentrations of the drugs.


The density of the cultures in the presence and absence of allopurinol was determined by haemocytometer enumeration. The two flow cytometric approaches used to monitor the drug effect were: (i) a quantitative method to measure cell division using 5-,6-carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester (CFSE) staining and (ii) evaluation of cell viability by dual-staining with the membrane-permeable nuclear stain, SBRY-14 and propidium iodide. It was found that concentrations of allopurinol above 50 μg/ml yielded a clear decrease in the proliferation rate of the promastigotes. However, the viability results showed that about 46.8% of the promastigotes incubated in the presence of 800 μg/ml of allopurinol were still alive after 96 hours. In sharp contrast, more than 90% of promastigotes treated with Chloralin 10 μM (2.7 μg/ml) were dead after 48 hours of treatment. These flow cytometric findings suggest that allopurinol has a leishmaniostatic effect while the dinitroaniline compound (Chloralin) has a leishmaniocidal effect against promastigotes.


The flow cytometric data on proliferation and viability were consistent with results obtained from haemocytometer counts and allowed us to develop a model for assessing in vitro the effects of medicaments like allopurinol and chloralin on L. infantum promastigotes on a cellular level.