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Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2003 Jan;22(1):28-34. Epub 2003 Jan 25.

Use of the E test to assess synergy of antibiotic combinations against isolates of Burkholderia cepacia-complex from patients with cystic fibrosis.

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Department of Paediatrics, Infectious Diseases Research and Diagnosis Laboratory, Gaslini Research Institute-Children's Hospital, University of Genoa, Largo G. Gaslini 5, 16147 Genoa, Italy.


Treatment of Burkholderia cepacia-complex infections in cystic fibrosis patients is problematic, since the microorganism is often resistant to most antimicrobial agents. In this study, the Epsilometer test, or E test, was used to assess the activity of antimicrobial combinations against Burkholderia cepacia-complex. In a preliminary evaluation, the E test was compared to the checkerboard method using 10 test organisms. Synergy testing by the E test was then performed on 131 clinical isolates of Burkholderia cepacia-complex using various combinations of antimicrobial agents. Agreement between the E test and the checkerboard method was 90%. The rate of resistance to individual agents ranged from 48% for meropenem to 100% for tobramycin, chloramphenicol, and rifampin. In 71.6%, 15.6%, and 12.6% of the test evaluations performed, the combinations tested resulted in additivity/indifference, synergism, and antagonism, respectively. The highest rates of synergy were observed with combinations of ciprofloxacin-piperacillin (44%), rifampin-ceftazidime (33%), chloramphenicol-ceftazidime (22%), cotrimoxazole-piperacillin/tazobactam (22%), and ciprofloxacin-ceftazidime (21%). Rates of antagonism for cotrimoxazole and chloramphenicol in combination with beta-lactam agents were higher than those observed for ciprofloxacin plus beta-lactam agents. These results suggest that the E test is a valuable and practical method to be considered for improving the identification of possible therapeutic options in cystic fibrosis patients infected with organisms belonging to the Burkholderia cepacia-complex.

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