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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2002 Jul;46(7):2095-103.

Comparative intracellular (THP-1 macrophage) and extracellular activities of beta-lactams, azithromycin, gentamicin, and fluoroquinolones against Listeria monocytogenes at clinically relevant concentrations.

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  • 1Unité de Pharmacologie Cellulaire et Moléculaire, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


The activities of ampicillin, meropenem, azithromycin, gentamicin, ciprofloxacin, and moxifloxacin against intracellular hemolysin-positive Listeria monocytogenes were measured in human THP-1 macrophages and were compared with the extracellular activities observed in broth. All extracellular concentrations were adjusted to explore ranges that are clinically achievable in human serum upon conventional therapy. In broth, ampicillin, meropenem, and azithromycin were only bacteriostatic, whereas gentamicin, ciprofloxacin, and moxifloxacin were strongly bactericidal in a concentration-dependent manner. In cells, ampicillin, meropenem, azithromycin, and ciprofloxacin were slightly bactericidal (0.3- to 0.8-log CFU reductions), moxifloxacin was strongly bactericidal (2.1-log CFU reduction), and gentamicin was virtually inactive. The difference in the efficacies of moxifloxacin and ciprofloxacin in cells did not result from a difference in levels of accumulation in cells (6.96 +/- 1.05 versus 7.75 +/- 1.03) and was only partially explainable by the difference in the MICs (0.58 +/- 0.04 versus 1.40 +/- 0.17 mg/liter). Further analysis showed that intracellular moxifloxacin expressed only approximately 1/7 of the activity demonstrated against extracellular bacteria and ciprofloxacin expressed only 1/15 of the activity demonstrated against extracellular bacteria. Gentamicin did not increase the intracellular activities of the other antibiotics tested. The data suggest (i) that moxifloxacin could be of potential interest for eradication of the intracellular forms of L. monocytogenes, (ii) that the cellular accumulation of an antibiotic is not the only determinant of its intracellular activity (for fluoroquinolones, it is actually a self-defeating process as far as activity is concerned), and (iii) that pharmacodynamics (activity-to-concentration relationships) need to be considered for the establishment of efficacy against intracellular bacteria, just as they are for the establishment of efficacy against extracellular infections.

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