Comparison of gentamicin and kanamycin alone and in combination with ampicillin in experimental escherichia coli bacteremia and meningitis

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The conventional antimicrobial therapy of gram-negative infection in the newborn is the combination of ampicillin and an aminoglycoside, usually gentamicin or kanamycin. Although gentamicin and kanamycin have been used interchangeably, efficacies of the two drugs have not been carefully compared. In addition, the contribution of ampicillin to the outcome of neonatal gram-negative meningitis is controversial. We evaluated the activity of gentamicin and kanamycin alone and in combinations with ampicillin in vitro and in vivo against a K] Escherichia coli strain. In vitro, the E. coli strain was relatively sensitive to ampicillin, gentamicin, and kanamycin, with the minimal inhibitory and minimal bactericidal concentrations of 2 and 4, 2 and 2, and 4 and 8 ng/ml, respectively. Checkerboard determinations of minimal inhibitory and minimal bactericidal concentrations of drug combinations exhibited an indifferent response for both ampicillin + gentamicin and ampicillin + kanamycin. However, in vivo studies using an experimental E. coli bacteremia and meningitis model in newbown rats suggested that gentamicin was more effective than kanamycin. This was shown by more rapid bacterial clearance from the blood, a decreased incidence of meningitis in bacteremic animals, and improved survival. Furthermore, the addition of ampicillin improved the outcome of kanamycin, but not gentamicin, suggesting that the contribution of ampicillin may vary depending on the type of aminoglycoside used. These findings suggest that kanamycin is less effective than gentamicin in vivo against E. coli and should be used in combination with ampicillin to achieve an outcome comparable to that of gentamicin in this model of E. coli infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1152-1155
Number of pages4
JournalPediatric research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1985
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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