The antibacterial activity of vancomycin towards Staphylococcus aureus under aerobic and anaerobic conditions

J Appl Microbiol. 2002;92(5):866-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2672.2002.01594.x.


Aims: To investigate the antibacterial efficacy of vancomycin towards Staphylococcus aureus under aerobic and anaerobic conditions, and to assess the influence of oxygen on the duration of the post-antibiotic effect (PAE) after exposure to vancomycin.

Methods and results: Culture-based techniques and flow cytometric measurements of 5-cyano-2,3-ditolyl tetrazolium chloride (an indicator of redox activity) and the membrane potential-sensitive fluorophore Sytox Green, were used to test four staphylococcal strains. The MICs for all strains, and the duration of PAE, were similar whether tested with or without oxygen. However, a fivefold logarithmic reduction in cell counts was observed in 10-15 h aerobically, depending on strain, compared with longer than 60 h in an anaerobic environment. Flow cytometric data correlated well with counts of colony-forming units under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions.

Conclusions: The death rate of Staph. aureus exposed to vancomycin was greater in the presence of oxygen, although MIC values and PAE durations were similar whether tested aerobically or anaerobically. Also, flow cytometry provided a rapid and sensitive alternative to plate counts for the assessment of antibiotics in oxygen-free conditions.

Significance and impact of the study: This study underlines the need for further anaerobic testing using different strain/antibiotic combinations, the results of which will have clinical significance due to the anaerobic nature of some sites of infection.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Culture Media
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Oxygen / pharmacology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development*
  • Vancomycin / pharmacology*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Culture Media
  • Vancomycin
  • Oxygen