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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1984 Jan; 25(1): 71–77.
PMCID: PMC185438

Synergism between penicillin, clindamycin, or metronidazole and gentamicin against species of the Bacteroides melaninogenicus and Bacteroides fragilis groups.


Clinical isolates of the Bacteroides melaninogenicus and Bacteroides fragilis groups were tested for in vitro and in vivo susceptibility to penicillin, clindamycin, and metronidazole, used singly or in combination with gentamicin. The in vitro tests consisted of determinations of minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) carried out with or without constant amounts of gentamicin. When used alone, gentamicin had negligible effects on the bacteria but significantly reduced the MICs of penicillin, clindamycin, and metronidazole against 11, 10, and 3, of the 15 strains of the B. melaninogenicus group, respectively. The 15 strains of the B. fragilis group were all beta-lactamase producers and were highly resistant to penicillin or the combination of penicillin and gentamicin. However, gentamicin reduced the MICs of clindamycin and metronidazole against 1 and 7 strains of this group, respectively. The in vivo tests were carried out in mice and consisted of measurements of the effects of the antimicrobial agents on the sizes and bacterial content of abscesses induced by subcutaneous injection of bacterial suspensions. The results of the in vivo tests were generally consistent with those obtained in vitro with strains of the B. melaninogenicus group. Synergism between gentamicin and penicillin, clindamycin, or metronidazole was shown in 13, 10, and 3 strains of this group, respectively. In vivo synergism was not clearly demonstrated with the strains of the B. fragilis group, possibly because clindamycin and metronidazole used alone were highly efficacious. We suggest that the synergistic effect of gentamicin is due to its increased transport into the bacterial cell in the presence of penicillin and, possibly, other antimicrobial agents. The newly recognized in vitro and in vivo synergism between penicillin and other antimicrobial agents and an aminoglycoside in B. melaninogenicus may have clinical implications that deserve to be investigated.

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