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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Apr;57(4):1736-42. doi: 10.1128/AAC.02011-12. Epub 2013 Jan 28.

Blood, tissue, and intracellular concentrations of azithromycin during and after end of therapy.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Although azithromycin is extensively used in the treatment of respiratory tract infections as well as skin and skin-related infections, pharmacokinetics of azithromycin in extracellular space fluid of soft tissues, i.e., one of its therapeutic target sites, are not yet fully elucidated. In this study, azithromycin concentration-time profiles in extracellular space of muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue, but also in plasma and white blood cells, were determined at days 1 and 3 of treatment as well as 2 and 7 days after the end of treatment. Of all compartments, azithromycin concentrations were highest in white blood cells, attesting for intracellular accumulation. However, azithromycin concentrations in both soft tissues were markedly lower than in plasma both during and after treatment. Calculation of the area under the concentration-time curve from 0 to 24 h (AUC(0-24))/MIC(90) ratios for selected pathogens suggests that azithromycin concentrations measured in the present study are subinhibitory at all time points in both soft tissues and at the large majority of observed time points in plasma. Hence, it might be speculated that azithromycin's clinical efficacy relies not only on elevated intracellular concentrations but possibly also on its known pleotropic effects, including immunomodulation and influence on bacterial virulence factors. However, prolonged subinhibitory azithromycin concentrations at the target site, as observed in the present study, might favor the emergence of bacterial resistance and should therefore be considered with concern. In conclusion, this study has added important information to the pharmacokinetic profile of the widely used antibiotic drug azithromycin and evidentiates the need for further research on its potential for induction of bacterial resistance.

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