Antibiotics (Basel). 2021 Apr 8;10(4):405. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics10040405.
The emergence of antibiotic resistance has severely impaired the treatment of chronic respiratory infections caused by multidrug-resistant (MDR) Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Since the reintroduction of polymyxins as a last-line therapy against MDR Gram-negative bacteria, resistance to its monotherapy and recurrent infections continue to be reported and synergistic antibiotic combinations have been investigated. In this study, comprehensive in vitro microbiological evaluations including synergy panel screening, population analysis profiling, time-kill kinetics, anti-biofilm formation and membrane damage analysis studies were conducted to evaluate the combination of polymyxin B and meropenem against biofilm-producing, polymyxin-resistant MDR P. aeruginosa. Two phylogenetically unrelated MDR P. aeruginosa strains, FADDI-PA060 (MIC of polymyxin B [MICpolymyxin B], 64 mg/L; MICmeropenem, 64 mg/L) and FADDI-PA107 (MICpolymyxin B, 32 mg/L; MICmeropenem, 4 mg/L) were investigated. Genome sequencing identified 57 (FADDI-PA060) and 50 (FADDI-PA107) genes predicted to confer resistance to a variety of antimicrobials, as well as multiple virulence factors in each strain. The presence of resistance genes to a particular antibiotic class generally aligned with MIC results. For both strains, all monotherapies of polymyxin B failed with substantial regrowth and biofilm formation. The combination of polymyxin B (16 mg/L)/meropenem (16 mg/L) was most effective, enhancing initial bacterial killing of FADDI-PA060 by ~3 log10 CFU/mL, followed by a prolonged inhibition of regrowth for up to 24 h with a significant reduction in biofilm formation (* p < 0.05). Membrane integrity studies revealed a substantial increase in membrane depolarization and membrane permeability in the surviving cells. Against FADDI-PA107, planktonic and biofilm bacteria were completely eradicated. In summary, the combination of polymyxin B and meropenem demonstrated synergistic bacterial killing while reinstating the efficacy of two previously ineffective antibiotics against difficult-to-treat polymyxin-resistant MDR P. aeruginosa.