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. 1989 Dec;33(12):2075-82.
doi: 10.1128/aac.33.12.2075.

Binding and Killing of Bacteria by Bismuth Subsalicylate

Free PMC article

Binding and Killing of Bacteria by Bismuth Subsalicylate

T E Sox et al. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. .
Free PMC article


Bismuth subsalicylate (BSS) is a compound without significant aqueous solubility that is widely used for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. BSS was able to bind bacteria of diverse species, and these bound bacteria were subsequently killed. A 4-log10 reduction of viable bacteria occurred within 4 h after a 10 mM aqueous suspension of BSS was inoculated with 2 x 10(6) Escherichia coli cells per ml. Binding and killing were dependent on the levels of inoculated bacteria, and significant binding but little killing of the exposed bacteria occurred at an inoculum level of 2 x 10(9) E. coli per ml. Intracellular ATP decreased rapidly after exposure of E. coli to 10 mM BSS and, after 30 min, was only 1% of the original level. Extracellular ATP increased after exposure to BSS, but the accumulation of extracellular ATP was not sufficient to account for the loss of intracellular ATP. The killing of bacteria exposed to BSS may have been due to cessation of ATP synthesis or a loss of membrane integrity. Bactericidal activity of BSS was also investigated in a simulated gastric juice at pH 3. Killing of E. coli at this pH was much more rapid than at pH 7 and was apparently due to salicylate released by the conversion of BSS to bismuth oxychloride. It is proposed that the binding and killing observed for BSS contribute to the efficacy of this compound against gastrointestinal infections such as traveler's diarrhea.

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