Burkholderia pseudomallei infections are fastidious to treat with conventional antibiotic therapy, often involving a combination of drugs and long-term regimes. Bacterial genetic determinants contribute to the resistance of B. pseudomallei to many classes of antibiotics. In addition, anaerobiosis and hypoxia in abscesses typical of melioidosis select for persistent populations of B. pseudomallei refractory to a broad spectrum of antibacterials. We tested the susceptibility of B. pseudomallei to the drugs hydroxyurea, spermine NONOate and DETA NONOate that release nitric oxide (NO). Our investigations indicate that B. pseudomallei are killed by NO in a concentration and time-dependent fashion. The cytoxicity of this diatomic radical against B. pseudomallei depends on both the culture medium and growth phase of the bacteria. Rapidly growing, but not stationary phase, B. pseudomallei are readily killed upon exposure to the NO donor spermine NONOate. NO also has excellent antimicrobial activity against anaerobic B. pseudomallei. In addition, persistent bacteria highly resistant to most conventional antibiotics are remarkably susceptible to NO. Sublethal concentrations of NO inhibited the enzymatic activity of [4Fe-4S]-cofactored aconitase of aerobic and anaerobic B. pseudomallei. The strong anti-B. pseudomallei activity of NO described herein merits further studies on the application of NO-based antibiotics for the treatment of melioidosis.
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