We have investigated the effects in vitro of a series of bisphosphonates on the proliferation of Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, Leishmania donovani, Toxoplasma gondii, and Plasmodium falciparum. The results show that nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates of the type used in bone resorption therapy have significant activity against parasites, with the aromatic species having in some cases nanomolar or low-micromolar IC(50) activity values against parasite replication (e.g. o-risedronate, IC(50) = 220 nM for T. brucei rhodesiense; risedronate, IC(50) = 490 nM for T. gondii). In T. cruzi, the nitrogen-containing bisphosphonate risedronate is shown to inhibit sterol biosynthesis at a pre-squalene level, most likely by inhibiting farnesylpyrophosphate synthase. Bisphosphonates therefore appear to have potential in treating parasitic protozoan diseases.