Within-species variability of antibiotic interactions in Gram-negative bacteria

mBio. 2024 Mar 13;15(3):e0019624. doi: 10.1128/mbio.00196-24. Epub 2024 Feb 23.

Abstract

Treatments with antibiotic combinations are becoming increasingly important even though the supposed clinical benefits of combinations are, in many cases, unclear. Here, we systematically examined how several clinically used antibiotics interact and affect the antimicrobial efficacy against five especially problematic Gram-negative pathogens. A total of 232 bacterial isolates were tested against different pairwise antibiotic combinations spanning five classes, and the ability of all combinations in inhibiting growth was quantified. Descriptive statistics, principal component analysis (PCA), and Spearman's rank correlation matrix were used to determine the correlations between the different combinations on interaction outcome. Several important conclusions can be drawn from the 696 examined interactions. Firstly, within a species, the interactions are in general conserved but can be isolate-specific for a given antibiotic combination and can range from antagonistic to synergistic. Secondly, additive and antagonistic interactions are the most common observed across species and antibiotics, with 87.1% of isolate-antibiotic combinations being additive, 11.6% antagonistic, and only 0.3% showing synergy. These findings suggest that to achieve the highest precision and efficacy of combination therapy, not only isolate-specific interaction profiling ought to be routinely performed, in particular to avoid using drug combinations that show antagonistic interaction and an expected associated reduction in efficacy, but also discovering rare and potentially valuable synergistic interactions.IMPORTANCEAntibiotic combinations are often used to treat bacterial infections, which aim to increase treatment efficacy and reduce resistance evolution. Typically, it is assumed that one specific antibiotic combination has the same effect on different isolates of the same species, i.e., the interaction is conserved. Here, we tested this idea by examining how several clinically used antibiotics interact and affect the antimicrobial efficacy against several bacterial pathogens. Our results show that, even though within a species the interactions are often conserved, there are also isolate-specific differences for a given antibiotic combination that can range from antagonistic to synergistic. These findings suggest that isolate-specific interaction profiling ought to be performed in clinical microbiology routine to avoid using antagonistic drug combinations that might reduce treatment efficacy.

Keywords: antagonism; antibiotic; bacteria; drug interactions; synergy.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / pharmacology
  • Bacterial Infections* / drug therapy
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Synergism
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests

Substances

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Drug Combinations