In vitro and in vivo toxicity and antibacterial efficacy of melittin against clinical extensively drug-resistant bacteria

BMC Pharmacol Toxicol. 2021 Jul 14;22(1):42. doi: 10.1186/s40360-021-00503-z.


BACKGROUND: Melittin is one of the most studied antimicrobial peptides, and several in vitro experiments have demonstrated its antibacterial efficacy. However, there is evidence showing melittin has non-promising effects such as cytotoxicity and hemolysis. Therefore, concerns about unwanted collateral toxicity of melittin lie ahead in the path toward its clinical development. With these considerations, the present study aimed to fill the gap between in vitro and in vivo studies.

METHODS: In the first step, in vitro toxicity profile of melittin was assessed using cytotoxicity and hemolysis tests. Next, a maximum intraperitoneal (i.p.) sub-lethal dose was determined using BALB/c mice. Besides toxicity, antimicrobial efficacy of melittin against extensively drug-resistant (XDR) Acinetobacter baumannii, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and KPC-producing Klebsiella pneumonia (KPC-KP) pathogens were tested using both in vitro and in vivo methods.

RESULTS: Melittin showed extensive hemolysis (HD50 = 0.44 µg/mL), and cytotoxicity (IC50 = 6.45 µg/mL) activities with i.p. LD50 value of 4.98 mg/kg in BALB/c mice. In vitro antimicrobial evaluation showed melittin MIC range from 8 to 32 µg/mL for the studied pathogens. Treatment of infected mice with repeated sub-lethal doses of melittin (2.4 mg/kg) displayed no beneficial effect on their survival and peritoneal bacterial loads.

CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that melittin at its safe dose could not exhibit antimicrobial activity, which hinders its application in clinical practice.

PMID:34261542 | PMC:PMC8281584 | DOI:10.1186/s40360-021-00503-z