Ospemifene displays broad-spectrum synergistic interactions with itraconazole through potent interference with fungal efflux activities
Azole antifungals are vital therapeutic options for treating invasive mycotic infections. However, the emergence of azole-resistant isolates combined with limited therapeutic options presents a growing challenge in medical mycology. To address this issue, we utilized microdilution checkerboard assays to evaluate nine stilbene compounds for their ability to interact synergistically with azole drugs, particularly against azole-resistant fungal isolates. Ospemifene displayed the most potent azole chemosensitizing activity, and its combination with itraconazole displayed broad-spectrum synergistic interactions against Candida albicans, Candida auris, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Aspergillus fumigatus (ΣFICI = 0.05–0.50). Additionally, in a Caenorhabditis elegans infection model, the ospemifene-itraconazole combination significantly reduced fungal CFU burdens in infected nematodes by ~75–96%. Nile Red efflux assays and RT-qPCR analysis suggest ospemifene interferes directly with fungal efflux systems, thus permitting entry of azole drugs into fungal cells. This study identifies ospemifene as a novel antifungal adjuvant that augments the antifungal activity of itraconazole against a broad range of fungal pathogens.