This study evaluated the in vitro pharmacodynamics of fluconazole, itraconazole, and amphotericin B against Cryptococcus neoformans. MICs were determined for three clinical isolates according to NCCLS guidelines (M27). Time-kill studies were performed using antifungal concentrations of 0.25-32 x MIC and inocula of 10(3) and 10(5) CFU/ml. At predetermined time points over 72 hours, samples of each inoculum/drug combination were withdrawn and plated using a spiral plater. Colony counts were determined after incubation at 35 degrees C for 48 hours. Area under the kill curves (AUKCs) were plotted versus the AUC/MIC ratios. Inoculum effect was evaluated by calculating an estimated AUKC for the low inoculum then comparing it to the measured low inoculum using the unpaired Student's t-test. The MICs of fluconazole and itraconazole for isolate 97-1199, 97-1061, and 97-585 were 2, 4, 32 microg/ml and 0.03, 0.06, 0. 5 microg/ml, respectively. For amphotericin B, the MIC was 0. 25 microg/ml for each isolate. The triazoles demonstrated fungistatic activity against each isolate at both inocula with the exception of itraconazole against C. neoformans 97-585. Maximal suppression was noted at concentrations 8-16 x MIC correlating with an AUC/MIC of 192 for both inocula. Conversely, amphotericin B was fungicidal and displayed concentration-dependent activity against each isolate at both inocula. Maximal killing was observed at concentrations >4 x MIC for the low inoculum and >8 x MIC for the high inoculum for each isolate. No statistically significant differences were detected between the measured and estimated AUKCs for each antifungal agent. In conclusion, our results suggest that the triazoles were most effective against C. neoformans when concentrations were maintained at 8-16 x MIC. Amphotericin B, on the other hand, was concentration-dependent; thus, greater activity was exerted at higher concentrations.