New Cell Wall-Affecting Antifungal Antibiotics
Juan Carlos Ribas,
Juan Carlos G. Cortés
Fungi have emerged worldwide as increasingly frequent causes of healthcare-associated infections. Invasive fungal infections can be life-threatening. However, the number of antifungal agents available and their use in therapy is very limited. Recently, a new family of specific fungal cell wall synthesis inhibitors has emerged as an alternative antifungal therapy and is gaining increasing relevance yearly. The cell wall is a multilayer dynamic structure, essential to the integrity and shape of the fungal cell, whose function is to counteract the osmotic forces that could otherwise produce fungal cell lysis. The cell wall is absent in nonfungal cells, therefore representing a useful target in discovering selective drugs for the treatment of fungal infections without causing toxicity in the host. Although fungi exhibit a considerable diversity in their cell wall structure, all present β(1,3)-, β(1,6)- and α(1,3)-glucans, chitin, and mannoproteins as their major cell wall components. Three different cell wall synthesis inhibitors of the lipopeptide family of echinocandins, named caspofungin, micafungin, and anidulafungin, are commercially available and new classes of cell wall synthesis inhibitors are emerging. This review provides an overview of what is so far known about the different classes of cell wall-affecting antifungal agents and their mechanism of action, offering new alternatives with clinical potential.