Anthelmintics or antihelminthics are a group of antiparasitic drugs. They expel parasitic worms (helminths) and other internal parasites from the body by either stunning or killing them and without causing significant damage to the host. They may also be called vermifuges (those that stun) or vermicides (those that kill). Anthelmintics are used to treat people who are infected by helminths, a condition called helminthiasis.
These drugs are also used to treat infected animals.
Pills containing anthelmintics are used in mass deworming campaigns of school-aged children in many developing countries. The drugs of choice for soil-transmitted helminths are mebendazole and albendazole; for schistosomiasis and tapeworms it is praziquantel.
- Albendazole – effective against threadworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, hookworms
- Mebendazole – effective against various nematodes
- Thiabendazole – effective against various nematodes
- Fenbendazole – effective against various parasites
- Triclabendazole – effective against liver flukes
- Flubendazole – effective against most intestinal parasites
- Abamectin (and by extension ivermectin) - effective against most common intestinal worms, except tapeworms, for which praziquantel is commonly used in conjunction for mass dewormings
- Diethylcarbamazine – effective against Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, Brugia timori, and Loa loa.
- Pyrantel pamoate – effective against most nematode infections residing within the intestines
- Salicylanilide – mitochondrial un-couplers (used only for flatworm infections):
- Nitazoxanide – readily kills Ascaris lumbricoides, and also possess antiprotozoal effects
- Oxamniquine – effective against flatworms (e.g., tapeworms and schistosoma)
- Praziquantel – effective against flatworms (e.g., tapeworms and schistosoma)
- Octadepsipeptides (e.g. Emodepside) – effective against a variety of gastrointestinal helminths
- Monepantel (aminoacetonitrile class) - effective against a variety of nematodes including those resistant to other anthelmintic classes
- Spiroindoles (e.g. derquantel) - effective against a variety of nematodes including those resistant to other anthelmintic classes
- Artemisinin – shows anthelmintic activity
Anthelmintic resistance in parasites is now widespread. It is a major threat to the sustainability of modern ruminant livestock production, resulting in reduced productivity, compromised animal health and welfare, and increased greenhouse gas emissions through increased parasitism and farm inputs. A database of published and unpublished European AR research on gastrointestinal nematodes was collated in 2020. A total of 197 publications were available for analysis, representing 535 studies in 22 countries and spanning the period 1980–2020. Results in sheep and goats since 2010 reveal an average prevalence of resistance to benzimidazoles of 86%, macrocyclic lactones except moxidectin 52%, levamisole 48%, and moxidectin 21%. All major gastrointestinal nematodes genera survived treatment in various studies. In cattle, prevalence of anthelminthic resistance varied between anthelmintic classes from 0–100% (benzimidazoles and macrocyclic lactones), 0–17% (levamisole) and 0–73% (moxidectin), and both Cooperia and Ostertagia survived treatment. 
The ability of parasites to survive treatments that are generally effective at the recommended doses is a major threat to the future control of worm parasites in small ruminants and horses. This is especially true of nematodes, and has helped spur development of aminoacetonitrile derivatives for treatment against drug-resistant nematodes, as well as exploration of doxycycline to kill their endosymbiotic Wolbachia bacteria.
Treatment with an antihelminthic drug kills worms whose phenotype renders them susceptible to the drug, but resistant parasites survive and pass on their "resistance" genes. Resistant varieties accumulate, and treatment failure finally occurs.
- Dysphania ambrosioides, an herb native to Central and South America
- Santonin, a historical anthelmintic no longer in use
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new anthelmintic alternatives such as tribendimidine and Nitazoxanide have proved to be safe and effective against A. lumbricoides and other soil-transmitted helminthiases in human trials.
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Nitazoxanide, a 5-nitrothiazole derivative with broad-spectrum activity against helminths and protozoans, has been shown to be effective against C cayetanensis, with an efficacy 87% by the third dose (first, 71%; second 75%). Three percent of patients had minor side effects.
- Veterinary Parasitology
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- Anthelmintics at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Holden-Dye, L. and Walker, R.J.Anthelmintic drugs (November 2, 2007), WormBook, ed. The C. elegans Research Community, WormBook, doi/10.1895/wormbook.1.143.1
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