Immunomodulation by macrolide antibiotics

J Chemother. 2001 Feb;13(1):3-8. doi: 10.1179/joc.2001.13.1.3.


Macrolide antibiotics are strongly concentrated within host cells, a property that sustains their activity against intracellular pathogens and is likely responsible for the modulation of cell metabolism and function. There is extensive literature on the subject of macrolide-induced modulation of immune responses. Erythromycin A derivatives seem to display anti-inflammatory activity in vitro, in some animal models and in various clinical settings such as diffuse panbronchiolitis (DPB). The underlying mechanisms are not yet fully understood: inflammatory cytokine and oxidant production by phagocytes is down-regulated by these drugs, but other possible targets include bacterial virulence factors, bronchial and epithelial cells, etc. Also, a link has been suggested between the macrolide transmembrane carrier system and the P-glycoprotein family, which comprises MDR (multiple drug resistance) and CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator), which are respectively involved in the chemotherapeutic resistance of cancer cells and in the genesis of cystic fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism
  • Erythromycin / pharmacokinetics
  • Erythromycin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / immunology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Erythromycin