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Background and Aims: Regulatory macrophages play a critical role in tissue repair, and we have previously shown that anti-tumour necrosis factor [TNF] antibodies induce these macrophages in vitro and in vivo in IBD patients. The induction of regulatory macrophages can be potentiated using the combination of anti-TNF and thiopurines, consistent with the enhanced efficacy of this combination therapy described in clinical trials. As thiopurines are unfortunately associated with significant side effects, we here aimed to identify alternatives for combination therapy with anti-TNF, using the macrophage induction model as a screening tool. Methods: Mixed lymphocyte reactions were treated with anti-TNF and a library of 1600 drug compounds. Induction of CD14+CD206+ macrophages was analysed by flow cytometry. Positive hits were validated in vitro and in the T cell transfer model of colitis. Results: Among the 98 compounds potentiating the induction of regulatory macrophages by anti-TNF were six benzimidazoles, including albendazole. Albendazole treatment in the presence of anti-TNF resulted in alterations in the tubulin skeleton and signalling though AMPK, which was required for the enhanced induction. Combination therapy also increased expression levels of the immunoregulatory cytokine IL-10. In vivo, albendazole plus anti-TNF combination therapy was superior to monotherapy in a model of colitis, in terms of both induction of regulatory macrophages and improvement of clinical symptoms. Conclusions: Albendazole enhances the induction of regulatory macrophages by anti-TNF and potentiates clinical efficacy in murine colitis. Given its favourable safety profile, these data indicate that the repurposing of albendazole may be a novel option for anti-TNF combination therapy in IBD.

Original publication




Journal article


J Crohns Colitis

Publication Date





1480 - 1490


Anti-TNF, colitis, high throughput screen, macrophage, AMP-Activated Protein Kinases, Albendazole, Animals, Benzimidazoles, Cells, Cultured, Colitis, Drug Synergism, Female, Humans, Infliximab, Interleukin-10, Lectins, C-Type, Lipopolysaccharide Receptors, Macrophage Activation, Macrophages, Mannose-Binding Lectins, Mice, Receptors, Cell Surface, Signal Transduction, Tubulin, Tubulin Modulators, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha