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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2012 Feb;67(2):452-9. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkr483. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Ascorbic acid protects against the nephrotoxicity and apoptosis caused by colistin and affects its pharmacokinetics.

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Drug Delivery, Disposition and Dynamics, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, 381 Royal Parade, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia.



The use of colistin in the treatment of life-threatening Gram-negative infections is associated with a high rate of nephrotoxicity that is dose limiting. This study aimed to examine the nephroprotective effect of ascorbic acid against colistin-induced nephrotoxicity.


Rats were treated intravenously twice daily with saline, colistin (cumulative dose of 36.5 mg/kg), a combination of ascorbic acid (50 or 200 mg/kg) and colistin, or ascorbic acid (200 mg/kg) over 7 days. Colistin-induced apoptosis was examined in rats over 5 days and in vitro using rat renal proximal tubular cells NRK-52E over 24 h with and without ascorbic acid. The effect of co-administered ascorbic acid on colistin pharmacokinetics was investigated.


The 24 h urinary excretion of N-acetyl-β-D-glucosaminidase, a sensitive marker for tubular damage, was significantly lower (P < 0.0001) in the colistin/ascorbic acid 200 mg/kg group. Significant histological abnormalities (P < 0.01) were detected only in the kidneys of the colistin group, which also had the highest percentage (30.6 ± 7.8%) of apoptotic cells (P < 0.005). In the cell culture studies, the percentage of apoptotic cells was significantly higher in the presence of 0.1 mM colistin alone (51.8 ± 2.0%; P < 0.0001) than in the presence of ascorbic acid, which decreased the apoptotic effect in a concentration-dependent manner. Ascorbic acid (200 mg/kg) altered colistin pharmacokinetics, as the total body clearance decreased from 3.78 ± 0.36 mL/min/kg (colistin group) to 2.46 ± 0.57 mL/min/kg (P = 0.0024).


This is the first study demonstrating the protective effect of ascorbic acid against colistin-induced nephrotoxicity and tubular apoptosis. Co-administration of ascorbic acid has the potential to increase the therapeutic index of colistin.

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