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Med Mycol. 2005 Mar;43(2):133-52.

Assessing in vitro combinations of antifungal drugs against yeasts and filamentous fungi: comparison of different drug interaction models.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, Nijmegen University Center for Infectious Diseases, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Non-parametric and parametric approaches of two competing zero-interaction theories--the Loewe additivity and the Bliss independence - were evaluated for analyzing the in vitro interactions of various antifungal drugs. Fifty-one data sets, derived from three drug combinations, tested in triplicate against 17 clinical yeast and mold isolates with a two-dimensional checkerboard microdilution technique, were selected to span from strong synergy to strong antagonism. These were analyzed with the standard FIC index model and modern concentration-effect response surface models: the fully parametric model developed by Greco et al. and the 3-D analysis developed by Prichard et al. The FIC index model is subjective, sensitive to experimental errors and resulted in approximated results and variable conclusions depending on the MIC endpoints determined and interpretation endpoints used. By using the MIC-2 endpoint (lowest drug concentration showing 50% of growth) for calculating the FIC indices, problems due to trailing phenomena were reduced and weak interactions could be detected; higher levels of reproducibility and agreement with the other models were achieved using the MIC-0 and MIC-1 (lowest drug concentration showing 10 and 25% of growth, respectively). High reproducibility was achieved in interpreting the FIC indices when the cutoffs of 0.25 and 4 (for single experiments) and the cutoff of 1 (for replicates) were used for defining the limits of additivity/indifference. Although the fully parametric Greco model did not describe precisely the entire response surface of all antifungal drug interactions, it was able to differentiate synergistic from non-synergistic interactions with a non-unit, reproducible, concentration-independent interaction parameter, including its uncertainty, without requiring replication. The Bliss independence based models resulted in mosaics of synergistic and antagonistic combinations, raising questions about the concentration-dependent nature of antifungal drug interaction. The sum of all statistically significant interactions were used as a summary interaction parameter for the entire response surface, concluding synergy or antagonism when it was positive or negative, respectively. The cutoffs of 100% and 200% were used to distinguish weak and moderate interactions, respectively in 12-16 x 8-12 checkerboard formats. Semi-parametric approaches need particular care as experimental errors are not eliminated from the entire response surface.

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