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Histol Histopathol. 2005 Apr;20(2):357-64. doi: 10.14670/HH-20.357.

Streptidine, a metabolic derivative produced after administration of streptomycin in vivo, is vestibulotoxic in rats.

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Departamento de Neurociencias, Instituto de Fisiología Celular, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, DF.


Streptomycin is the treatment of choice in developing countries for patients suffering from tuberculosis or other infectious diseases. However, it produces incapacitating vestibular symptoms whose onset is delayed and gradual. This observation led to the notion that a streptomycin metabolic derivative and not the antibiotic itself is the damaging agent for the inner ear. To study further the existence of this ototoxic metabolite, chronic treatment with streptomycin or its putative derivative streptidine was carried out in young male Long Evans rats. The presence of streptomycin or streptidine in the blood of animals of either experimental group was assessed by high performance liquid chromatography and analysis of swimming behavior was used to evaluate vestibular damage. Features of the sensory epithelium and quantification of hair cells were attained in sections of the utricular organ of all groups by light microscopy. After 25, 35 and 45 days of treatment with streptomycin, a metabolite with the same chromatographic properties as the streptidine standard run in parallel was identified in the blood of rats. Concentrations of the metabolite were 2.26 microg/ml on the 25th day and around 8.0 microg/ml in both the 35th and the 45th day of treatment, while streptomycin was below its detection level at either period. In streptidine-treated rats, the concentration of this compound was 1.0, 1.84 and 4.94 microg/ml on the 25th, 35th and 45th treatment days, respectively. Treatment with either streptomycin or streptidine resulted in similar abnormal swimming patterns and histological alterations of the utricular epithelium. Loss of hair cells was roughly equivalent even though streptidine was administered in a dose 90% lower than streptomycin. The gradual appearance of streptidine as a metabolic derivative of the antibiotic in the blood of rats or the administration of this compound alone, causing similar functional and structural vestibular deterioration seen in streptomycin-treated animals, supports the notion that streptidine is a potential contributor to ototoxicity after prolonged antibiotic administration.

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