Toxicity after prolonged (more than four weeks) administration of intravenous colistin

BMC Infect Dis. 2005 Jan 10;5:1. doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-5-1.


Background: The intravenous use of polymyxins has been considered to be associated with considerable nephrotoxicity and neurotoxicity. For this reason, the systemic administration of polymyxins had been abandoned for about 20 years in most areas of the world. However, the problem of infections due to multidrug-resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacteria such us Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumanniii has led to the re-use of polymyxins. Our objective was to study the toxicity of prolonged intravenous administration of colistin (polymyxin E).

Methods: An observational study of a retrospective cohort at "Henry Dunant" Hospital, a 450-bed tertiary care center in Athens, Greece, was undertaken.Patients who received intravenous colistin for more than 4 weeks for the treatment of multidrug resistant Gram-negative infections were included in the study. Serum creatinine, blood urea, liver function tests, symptoms and signs of neurotoxicity were the main outcomes studied.

Results: We analyzed data for 19 courses of prolonged intravenous colistin [mean duration of administration (+/- SD) 43.4 (+/- 14.6) days, mean daily dosage (+/- SD) 4.4 (+/- 2.1) million IU, mean cumulative dosage (+/- SD) 190.4 (+/- 91.0) million IU] in 17 patients. The median creatinine value increased by 0.25 mg/dl during the treatment compared to the baseline (p < 0.001) but returned close to the baseline at the end of treatment (higher by 0.1 mg/dl, p = 0.67). No apnea or other evidence of neuromuscular blockade was noted in any of these patients who received prolonged treatment with colistin.

Conclusions: No serious toxicity was observed in this group of patients who received prolonged intravenous colistin. Colistin should be considered as a therapeutic option in patients with infections due to multidrug resistant Gram-negative bacteria.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Bacteremia / drug therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Biliary Tract / drug effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colistin / administration & dosage*
  • Colistin / adverse effects*
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusion Pumps
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System / drug effects
  • Neuromuscular Junction / drug effects
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Urea / blood


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Urea
  • Creatinine
  • Colistin