Alexidine Dihydrochloride Has Broad-Spectrum Activities against Diverse Fungal Pathogens

mSphere. 2018 Oct 31;3(5):e00539-18. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00539-18.


Invasive fungal infections due to Candida albicans, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Cryptococcus neoformans constitute a substantial threat to hospitalized immunocompromised patients. Further, the presence of drug-recalcitrant biofilms on medical devices and emergence of drug-resistant fungi, such as Candida auris, introduce treatment challenges with current antifungal drugs. Worse, currently there is no approved drug capable of obviating preformed biofilms, which increase the chance of infection relapses. Here, we screened a small-molecule New Prestwick Chemical Library, consisting of 1,200 FDA-approved off-patent drugs against C. albicans, C. auris, and A. fumigatus, to identify those that inhibit growth of all three pathogens. Inhibitors were further prioritized for their potency against other fungal pathogens and their ability to kill preformed biofilms. Our studies identified the bis-biguanide alexidine dihydrochloride (AXD) as a drug with the highest antifungal and antibiofilm activity against a diverse range of fungal pathogens. Finally, AXD significantly potentiated the efficacy of fluconazole against biofilms, displayed low mammalian cell toxicity, and eradicated biofilms growing in mouse central venous catheters in vivo, highlighting its potential as a pan-antifungal drug.IMPORTANCE The prevalence of fungal infections has seen a rise in the past decades due to advances in modern medicine leading to an expanding population of device-associated and immunocompromised patients. Furthermore, the spectrum of pathogenic fungi has changed, with the emergence of multidrug-resistant strains such as C. auris High mortality related to fungal infections points to major limitations of current antifungal therapy and an unmet need for new antifungal drugs. We screened a library of repurposed FDA-approved inhibitors to identify compounds with activities against a diverse range of fungi in varied phases of growth. The assays identified alexidine dihydrochloride (AXD) to have pronounced antifungal activity, including against preformed biofilms, at concentrations lower than mammalian cell toxicity. AXD potentiated the activity of fluconazole and amphotericin B against Candida biofilms in vitro and prevented biofilm growth in vivo Thus, AXD has the potential to be developed as a pan-antifungal, antibiofilm drug.

Keywords: Candida albicans; FDA; HTS; antifungal agents; biofilms; panfungal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / drug effects*
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / growth & development
  • Biguanides / pharmacology*
  • Biofilms / drug effects
  • Candida / drug effects*
  • Candida / growth & development
  • Candida albicans / drug effects*
  • Candida albicans / growth & development
  • Central Venous Catheters / microbiology
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Drug Synergism
  • Fluconazole / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Microbial Viability / drug effects
  • Models, Animal
  • Small Molecule Libraries


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Biguanides
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Fluconazole
  • alexidine