We have previously reported that tetrazolium salts were both potent and specific inhibitors of Plasmodium replication, and that they appear to interact with a parasite component that is both essential and conserved. The use of tetrazolium salts in vivo is limited by the potential reduction of the tetrazolium ring to form an inactive, neutral acyclic formazan. To address this issue imidazolium and triazolium salts were synthesized and evaluated as Plasmodium inhibitors. Many of the imidazolium and triazolium salts were highly potent with active concentrations in the nanomolar range in Plasmodium falciparum cultures, and specific to Plasmodium with highly favorable therapeutic ratios. The results corroborate our hypothesis that an electron-deficient core is required so that the compound may thereby interact with a negatively charged moiety on the parasite merozoite; the side groups in the compound then form favorable interactions with adjacent parasite components and thereby determine both the potency and selectivity of the compound.
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