The gentamicin drug product is a complex mixture of numerous components, many of which have not individually undergone safety and efficacy assessments. This is in contrast to the majority of medicines that require rigorous characterizations of trace impurities and are dosed as single components. In gentamicin, four components, known as gentamicin congeners C1, C1a, C2, and C2a, comprise the majority of the mixture. A Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy analysis revealed that the relative abundances of each gentamicin congener in commercial formulations can vary up to 1.9-fold depending on the commercial source of the gentamicin. To determine if the gentamicin used for antibiotic susceptibility testing (AST) would be predictive of the microbiological activity of the product used to dose patients, the relative abundances of the four congeners contained on commercial AST disks were measured. It was found that the congener abundances on the commercial AST disks varied up to 4.1-fold. After purification of the four gentamicin congeners, similar potencies against bacterial strains lacking aminoglycoside modifying enzymes (AMEs) were observed. However, the potency of the congeners differed by up to 128-fold against strains harboring a common AME. Nephrotoxicity of the individual gentamicin congeners also differed significantly in cell-based and repeat-dose rat nephrotoxicity studies. Variations in the composition of commercial gentamicin products combined with toxicity differences between gentamicin congeners suggests that some gentamicin formulations may be more nephrotoxic. Our results also raise the concern that gentamicin susceptibility test results may not be predictive of patient outcomes and could lead to unexpected clinical treatment failures.
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