Presently, there are three treatment options for hydatidosis: surgery, percutaneous aspiration and medicinal treatment (Adas et al. 2009). Even though huge improvements have happened in medical and interventional radiological techniques, surgery is still the gold standard for hydatid cyst treatment (Fattahi et al. 2019). Surgery is an invasive and mostly considered a risky therapeutic option, but the aim in hydatidosis is inactivation and evacuation of cysts and preventing the recurrence of the disease (Fattahi et al. 2019). Embryonic cells existing on the hydatid cyst germinal layer can generate new protoscoleces or brood capsules. To prevent the disease recurrence, this layer should be destroyed (Fattahi et al. 2019; Moazeni et al. 2019). A suitable scolicidal agent can be described by its potency at low doses, high efficacy in a short time, high accessibility, low toxicity, and longer retention time in the cystic contents. Necessarily, novel, more appropriate, and more efficient scolicidal agents are required to improve hydatidosis treatment (Mahmoudvand et al. 2019). Historically, herbal medicines have been a popular form of complementary and alternative medicine worldwide. They are currently in demand and their popularity is increasing day by day (Mahmoudvand et al. 2019; Verma & Singh, 2008). A.dracunculus and S.sahendica were selected for the present study due to their several special features including accessibility and low price. It was reported that A.dracunculus showed the highest antileishmanial effect between 11 Artemisia genus species (Emami et al. 2012). Also, A.dracunculus showed a significant antileishmanial effect in an in vivo study model (Babaee Khou et al. 2007). However, in the present study, A.dracunculus EO was not as potent as the other tested EO against protoscoleces. On the other hand, by nanoformulasion, scolicidal activity of A.dracunculus significantly increased and resulted in 60 min LC50 values of 11.48 for the nanoemulsion versus 213.35 µg/ml for the EO.
In the present study, EO of S.sahendica at the highest tested concentration after 120 min resulted in higher than 90% mortality rates. Studies have reported several biological activities including antimicrobial and antiparasitic effects for the species of the Satureja genus. Volatile compounds in Satureja species EOs are characterized mainly with oxygenated monoterpenes including thymol and carvacrol (Tepe & Cilkiz, 2016). Most probably, some parts of scolicidal activity of S.sahendica EO is due to presence of carvacrol and thymol. Moreover, there are several reports on antiparasitic and scolicidal activity of carvacrol and thymol and plant containing these two terpenoids as their main constituents (Mahmoudvand et al. 2017; Moazeni et al. 2012; Tabari et al. 2017; Youssefi et al. 2019a; Youssefi et al. 2019b). In line with these, the present study showed high efficacy of S.sahendica EO and its nanoemulsion on protoscoleces with LC50 values of 25.37 and 10.60 µg/ml, respectively, which were significantly higher than A.dracunculus EO and its nanoemulsion.
In this research, all the tested EOs and their formulated nanoforms demonstrated higher scolicidal activity relative to the standard conventional drug, albendazole. After oral administration of albendazole, it will be metabolized to a sulfoxide metabolite. It has been showed that albendazole sulfoxide is the primary active metabolite of albendazole and responsible of its in vivo therapeutic effects (Adas et al. 2009). Thus, therapeutic effect of albendazole under in vitro conditions, as a result of lack of metabolizing system, is limited (Hardin et al. 1997). For a more reliable in vitro comparison between tested EOs and the standard albendazole treatment, using albendazole sulfoxide instead of albendazole would have been a better choice.
To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first study to evaluate the efficacy of S.sahendica and A.dracunculus EO and their nanoemulsions against hydatid cysts protoscoleces. The developed nanoemulsions in the present study were successfully in nanometric scale and showed higher scolicidal activity in comparison to the EOs. Nanoemulsions can reach the target organs more easily because of their smaller size, and higher ability to pass through the biological membranes. Among all the tested compounds of the present study, nanoemulsion of S.sahendica demonstrated the highest toxicity on protoscoleces and may serve as a candidate for research and development on novel scolicidas. Further in vivo studies are needed to warrant its safety and efficacy in hydatidosis infection model.