Effects of tafenoquine against active, dormant and resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (Edinb). 2021 May;128:102089. doi: 10.1016/j.tube.2021.102089. Epub 2021 May 13.


Antimalarial drugs have been suggested as promising scaffolds with anti-tubercular activities. In this work, we demonstrated, for the first time, the effectiveness of tafenoquine against mycobacteria. Firstly, tafenoquine inhibited the growth of Mycobacterium smegmatis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis with lower MICs values as compared to other antimalarial drugs, such as mefloquine, chloroquine, and primaquine. Importantly, tafenoquine was active against three multi-drug resistant strains of M. tuberculosis with MIC values similar to pan-sensitive strains, suggesting that tafenoquine is capable of evading the major mechanisms of resistance found in drug-resistant clinical isolates of M. tuberculosis. Importantly, tafenoquine displayed a synergistic effect when combined with mefloquine. In addition, tafenoquine displayed an improved activity compared to the groups treated with both isoniazid and rifampicin in the six-week nutrient starved M. tuberculosis cultures. This finding suggests that further investigations of tafenoquine against dormant mycobacteria are worth pursuing. Moreover, different concentrations of tafenoquine ranging from 1.25 to 80 μM displayed different effects against M. tuberculosis, from moderate (reduction of a 1.8 log CFU/mL) to potent bactericidal (reduction of a 4.2 log CFU/mL) activities. Tafenoquine may represent a hit for further drug optimization and for future clinical development as a new anti-mycobacterial agent, especially in cases of resistant and/or dormant forms of tuberculosis.

Keywords: Dormancy; Drug repurposing; Resistance; Tafenoquine; Tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aminoquinolines / pharmacology*
  • Drug Repositioning
  • Drug Synergism
  • Isoniazid / pharmacology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mycobacterium smegmatis / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects*
  • Rifampin / pharmacology


  • Aminoquinolines
  • tafenoquine
  • Isoniazid
  • Rifampin