Some nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are considered opportunistic pathogens. Nevertheless, NTM infections are increasing worldwide, becoming a major public health threat. Furthermore, there is no current specific drugs to treat these infections, and the recommended regimens generally lack efficacy, emphasizing the need for novel antibacterial compounds. In this paper, we focused on the essential mycolic acids transporter MmpL3, which is a well-characterized target of several antimycobacterial agents, to identify new compounds active against Mycobacterium abscessus (Mab). From the crystal structure of MmpL3 in complex with known inhibitors, through an in silico approach, we developed a pharmacophore that was used as a three-dimensional filter to identify new putative MmpL3 ligands within databases of known drugs. Among the prioritized compounds, mefloquine showed appreciable activity against Mab (MIC = 16 µg/mL). The compound was confirmed to interfere with mycolic acids biosynthesis, and proved to also be active against other NTMs, including drug-resistant clinical isolates. Importantly, mefloquine is a well-known antimalarial agent, opening the possibility of repurposing an already approved drug, which is a useful strategy to reduce the time and cost of disclosing novel drug candidates.
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