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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2013 Nov;57(11):5406-14. doi: 10.1128/AAC.00750-13. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Fosfomycin and tobramycin in combination downregulate nitrate reductase genes narG and narH, resulting in increased activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa under anaerobic conditions.

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  • 1CF and Airways Microbiology Research Group, Queen's University, Belfast, United Kingdom.


The activity of aminoglycosides, which are used to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa respiratory infection in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, is reduced under the anaerobic conditions that reflect the CF lung in vivo. In contrast, a 4:1 (wt/wt) combination of fosfomycin and tobramycin (F:T), which is under investigation for use in the treatment of CF lung infection, has increased activity against P. aeruginosa under anaerobic conditions. The aim of this study was to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the increased activity of F:T under anaerobic conditions. Microarray analysis was used to identify the transcriptional basis of increased F:T activity under anaerobic conditions, and key findings were confirmed by microbiological tests, including nitrate utilization assays, growth curves, and susceptibility testing. Notably, growth in subinhibitory concentrations of F:T, but not tobramycin or fosfomycin alone, significantly downregulated (P < 0.05) nitrate reductase genes narG and narH, which are essential for normal anaerobic growth of P. aeruginosa. Under anaerobic conditions, F:T significantly decreased (P < 0.001) nitrate utilization in P. aeruginosa strains PAO1, PA14, and PA14 lasR::Gm, a mutant known to exhibit increased nitrate utilization. A similar effect was observed with two clinical P. aeruginosa isolates. Growth curves indicate that nitrate reductase transposon mutants had reduced growth under anaerobic conditions, with these mutants also having increased susceptibility to F:T compared to the wild type under similar conditions. The results of this study suggest that downregulation of nitrate reductase genes resulting in reduced nitrate utilization is the mechanism underlying the increased activity of F:T under anaerobic conditions.

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