Tools to develop antibiotic combinations that target drug tolerance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2023 Jan 6;12:1085946. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.1085946. eCollection 2022.


Combination therapy is necessary to treat tuberculosis to decrease the rate of disease relapse and prevent the acquisition of drug resistance, and shorter regimens are urgently needed. The adaptation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to various lesion microenvironments in infection induces various states of slow replication and non-replication and subsequent antibiotic tolerance. This non-heritable tolerance to treatment necessitates lengthy combination therapy. Therefore, it is critical to develop combination therapies that specifically target the different types of drug-tolerant cells in infection. As new tools to study drug combinations earlier in the drug development pipeline are being actively developed, we must consider how to best model the drug-tolerant cells to use these tools to design the best antibiotic combinations that target those cells and shorten tuberculosis therapy. In this review, we discuss the factors underlying types of drug tolerance, how combination therapy targets these populations of bacteria, and how drug tolerance is currently modeled for the development of tuberculosis multidrug therapy. We highlight areas for future studies to develop new tools that better model drug tolerance in tuberculosis infection specifically for combination therapy testing to bring the best drug regimens forward to the clinic.

Keywords: dormancy; drug combinations; drug interaction; drug tolerance; pharmacodynamics (PD); pharmacokinetics (PK); tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Humans
  • Leprostatic Agents / pharmacology
  • Leprostatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis*
  • Tuberculosis* / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis* / microbiology


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Leprostatic Agents