Synergistic Antimicrobial Effect of Colistin in Combination with Econazole against Multidrug-Resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and Its Persisters

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00937-22
Journal / PublicationMicrobiology Spectrum
Online published25 Apr 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 25 Apr 2022



Colistin is a last-line antibiotic which acts by causing membrane permeabilization in Gram-negative bacteria. However, its clinical value has been limited by its toxicity and the emergence of resistant organisms. In this study, we showed that econazole and colistin can act synergistically to produce a strong antimicrobial effect sufficient for eradication of starvation-induced tolerant and multidrug-resistant populations of Acinetobacter baumannii, a notorious pathogen causing recalcitrant infections, both in vitro and in mouse infection models. Investigation of the underlying mechanism showed that, while colistin disrupts the membrane structure, econazole causes the dissipation of proton motive force, eliciting a vicious cycle of membrane structural damages and disruption of membrane protein functions, and eventually cell death. This drug combination therefore achieves our goal of using a much smaller dosage of colistin to produce a much stronger antimicrobial effect to tackle the problems of toxicity and resistance associated with colistin usage. IMPORTANCE Findings described in this study constitute concrete evidence that it is possible to significantly enhance the antimicrobial activity of colistin by using an antifungal drug, econazole, as a colistin adjuvant. We showed that this drug combination can kill not only multidrug-resistant A. baumannii but also the tolerant subpopulation of such strains known as persisters, which may cause chronic and recurrent infections in clinical settings. The synergistic killing effect of the econazole and colistin combination was also observable in mouse infection models at a very low concentration, suggesting that such a drug combination has high potential to be used clinically. Findings in this study therefore have important implications for enhancing its clinical application potential as well as developing new approaches to enhance treatment effectiveness and reduce suffering in patients.

Research Area(s)

  • Acinetobacter baumannii, persisters, synergistic antimicrobial effect, econazole, colistin, POLYMYXIN-B, CARBAPENEM, CELLS, ANTIBIOTICS, THERAPY, TIGECYCLINE, MECHANISMS, IMIPENEM, ADJUVANT, STRAINS

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