Niclosamide – A Drug For More Than One Purpose

You might have a couple of “double duty” drugs sitting in your medicine cabinet. Many common medicines have multiple uses. Although they are originally intended for a single ailment, they carry the potential to cure different health issues.

Niclosamide is one of them. Previously used as an anthelmintic drug, it has emerged as a true hit for treating diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, viral and microbial infections. Some reports also show that it can come in handy for various cancers. Here is a detailed outline of the primary uses of this drug.

Niclosamide – What Is It, Exactly?

Niclosamide is an anthelmintic drug meant to treat parasitic infections in millions of people around the globe. Anthelmintics can take care of worm infections. Niclosamide is used for fish tapeworm or broad tapeworm. As well as beef tapeworm and dwarf tapeworm infections. But, it can’t be used for other worm infections, such as roundworms or pinworms.

These worms are parasites that adhere to the intestinal wall, grow, and produce eggs. They are often mild. But sometimes, they can grow into an invasive infection and trigger serious complications. Intestinal worm infestations are a global health problem.

Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections affect 2 billion people globally. Even though they are completely preventable, they still end up causing significant suffering, discomfort, and pain. That’s where anthelmintics come into play.

Niclosamide is an FDA-approved anthelmintic. But, in the last 5 years, there has been a growing interest in its potential to be used as an anticancer agent. Alongside other ailments, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, microbial, and viral infections.

According to research, this oral medicine is more effective than flubendazole and mebendazole. It’s also the go-to choice for mass chemotherapy. This oral anthelmintic drug has been used for almost half a century to tackle tapeworm infections.

How Does It Work?

Niclosamide is a prescription drug. It kills tapeworms the moment it comes in contact with the infestation. The dead worms then get passed in the stool and leave the system. Sometimes, you can spot the worms when you go to the toilet. At other times, they can be difficult to see since most will get destroyed in the intestines.

To help clear out the infection, the medicine could be taken on an empty stomach—preferably 1h before or 2 hours after a meal. But, to avoid an upset stomach, doctors often recommend you take a tablet right after having a light meal. Like, breakfast.

Despite its use as an anthelmintic medicine, its actual mechanism remains to be fully understood. But, over the past decade or so, research linked the product’s therapeutic potential to many other diseases that involve the signaling cascades.

Note: One Niclosamide dose is often enough to get the desired result. But, in some patients, a second dose is necessary. They must continue to take Niclosamide during the full treatment, which typically lasts 7 days.

Niclosamide and Its Many (Re) Purposes

Data indicate that the pharmacological activities of Niclosamide can make it a multi-purpose product. These effects are a result of the drug’s ability to uncouple mitochondrial phosphorylation and regulate a selection of signaling pathways. Repurposing research shows diverse potential in treating diabetes, Parkinson’s, microbial and viral infections. Including certain carcinomas.

  • Diabetes

Just over 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes. That’s about 34.2 million people. For 88 million, or 1 in 3 Americans, prediabetes is a serious issue. Given the sheer prevalence of metabolic conditions, it makes sense to look for various treatment opportunities that would provide ample results.

The salt form of Niclosamide (Niclosamide ethanolamine), which shows a better aqueous solubility, also alleviated the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, Miletus, in mice. The treatment in mice fed on a high-fat diet offered a high energy expenditure, better lipid oxidation, and metabolism. Niclosamide ethanolamine was effective in managing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), glycemic control, and reducing the progression of the ailment.

  • Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Any mutations of the catalytic activity of the mitochondrial serine/threonine-protein kinase PINK1 can lead to an early PD onset. Tiny molecules that activate this protein would offer neuroprotective effects. Thus, carrying the potential to treat the ailment.

Niclosamide is a powerful activator of PINK1 in cells, which means that it offers some significant promise to keep the condition in check. But, more PD models are necessary to establish the ability of this drug to treat the condition.

  • Viral Infections

People can get infected with a virus by inhaling or swallowing it. They could also contract it from insect bites or sexual contact. Viral infections involve the upper airways, throat, and nose, including systems such as the gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. Antiviral drugs are often used to curb virus reproduction and keep the immune system in solid shape.

Niclosamide also has the potential to be used as a broad-spectrum antiviral agent. Capable of targeting the host pathways. This activity has been associated with the product’s potential to mitigate the infection. To date, a couple of studies have tried using Niclosamide for treating COVID 19, Ebola, and Zika viruses.

  • Bacterial Infections

A bacteria infects the body when it enters the system. Thus increasing in number and triggering reactions. It could be contracted via an open wound or through the airway. Niclosamide has shown antimicrobial potential against some bacterial infections. Mainly anthrax, tuberculosis, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These findings indicate that the drug is as effective as vancomycin, the current medication being used for treating MRSA.  

  • Cancer

Experts have long focused their attention and resources on cancer research. Niclosamide offered some anticancer activities against the following cancers:

  • colon
  • breast
  • prostate
  • glioblastoma
  • osteosarcoma
  • ovarian
  • leukemia
  • adrenocortical carcinoma
  • lung
  • oral cancers

Data indicates that the drug’s ability to damage tumor cell mitochondria, inhibit tumor cell proliferation, and induce apoptosis makes it a viable alternative.

Final Thoughts

Niclosamide has quite the potential for treating various illnesses. Of course, like any medication out there, it does come with some safety concerns. More research is necessary to delve deeper into its safety issues and full potential. The currently available data only highlights its versatility and effect. Proving that the product can offer a myriad of therapeutic activities.


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