Genistein (4',5,7-trihydroxyisoflavone) is naturally present in plants of the soy family and is known to have various pharmacological activities, such as anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant, etc. The phytoestrogen is one of the major isoflavones found in some medicinal plants having anthelmintic properties. This review describes the putative role of genistein as an anthelmintic, which has been tested on some helminth parasites in vitro. Genistein has been shown to cause paralysis and alterations in the tegument and tegumental enzymes (acid phosphatase, alkaline phosphatase, adenosine triphosphatase, and 5'-nucleotidase) of helminth parasites. Alterations in the activities of several enzymes associated with the coordination system (specifically non-specific esterases, acetylcholine esterase, and nitric oxide synthase), and changes in the concentration of nitric oxide, cGMP, free amino acid pool, and tissue ammonia are observed in helminth parasites treated with genistein. The phytoestrogen also affects the carbohydrate metabolism by altering the activities of key enzymes involved in glycogen- and glucose-metabolism of a cestode parasite. Considering the significance of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) in glycolysis of the cestode parasite, Ki of the phytoestrogen for PEPCK in the parasite has been determined, and molecular docking of genistein into the active site of the enzyme has also been described. The potential beneficial role of genistein as a natural alternative in management of helminth parasites needs to be further explored, particularly considering its in vivo efficacy and pharmacokinetics.
Keywords: Anthelmintic; Genistein; Helminths; Medicinal plants.