Select β-lactam combinations exhibit synergy against Mycobacterium abscessus in vitro

Elizabeth Story-Roller, Emily C. Maggioncalda, Gyanu Lamichhane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mycobacterium abscessus (Mab) is a nontuberculous mycobacterium that causes invasive pulmonary infections in patients with structural lung disease. Mab is intrinsically resistant to several classes of antibiotics and an increasing number of strains isolated from patients exhibit resistance to most antibiotics considered for treatment of Mab infections. Therefore, there is an unmet need for new regimens with improved efficacy to treat this disease. Synthesis of the essential cell wall peptidoglycan in Mab is achieved via two enzyme classes, L,D- and D-D-transpeptidases, with each class preferentially inhibited by different subclasses of β-lactam antibiotics. We hypothesized that a combination of two β-lactams that comprehensively inhibit the two enzyme classes will exhibit synergy in killing Mab. Paired combinations of antibiotics tested for in vitro synergy against Mab included dual β-lactams, a β-lactam and a β-lactamase inhibitor, and a β-lactam and a rifamycin. Of the initial 206 combinations screened, 24 pairs exhibited synergy. 13/24 pairs were combinations of two β-lactams. 12/24 pairs brought the minimum inhibitory concentrations of both drugs to within the therapeutic range. Additionally, synergistic drug pairs significantly reduced the frequency of selection of spontaneous resistant mutants. These novel combinations of currently-available antibiotics may offer viable immediate treatment options against highly-resistant Mab infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Jan 17 2019


  • antibiotics
  • avibactam
  • Mycobacterium abscessus
  • rifamycins
  • synergy
  • β-lactamase inhibitor
  • β-lactams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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