There is a strong need for new broadly active antifungal agents for the treatment of oral candidiasis that not only are active against many species of Candida, including drug-resistant strains, but also evade microbial countermeasures which may lead to resistance. Host defense peptides (HDPs) can provide a foundation for the development of such agents. Toward this end, we have developed fully synthetic, small-molecule, nonpeptide mimetics of the HDPs that improve safety and other pharmaceutical properties. Here we describe the identification of several HDP mimetics that are broadly active against C. albicans and other species of Candida, rapidly fungicidal, and active against yeast and hyphal cultures and that exhibit low cytotoxicity for mammalian cells. Importantly, specificity for Candida over commensal bacteria was also evident, thereby minimizing potential damage to the endogenous microbiome which otherwise could favor fungal overgrowth. Three compounds were tested as topical agents in two different mouse models of oral candidiasis and were found to be highly active. Following single-dose administrations, total Candida burdens in tongues of infected animals were reduced up to three logs. These studies highlight the potential of HDP mimetics as a new tool in the antifungal arsenal for the treatment of oral candidiasis.
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