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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2016 Oct 3;6(10). pii: a025288. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a025288.

Polymyxin: Alternative Mechanisms of Action and Resistance.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Palacký University, 771 47 Olomouc, Czech Republic.


Antibiotic resistance among pathogenic bacteria is an ever-increasing issue worldwide. Unfortunately, very little has been achieved in the pharmaceutical industry to combat this problem. This has led researchers and the medical field to revisit past drugs that were deemed too toxic for clinical use. In particular, the cyclic cationic peptides polymyxin B and colistin, which are specific for Gram-negative bacteria, have been used as "last resort" antimicrobials. Before the 1980s, these drugs were known for their renal and neural toxicities; however, new clinical practices and possibly improved manufacturing have made them safer to use. Previously suggested to primarily attack the membranes of Gram-negative bacteria and to not easily select for resistant mutants, recent research exploring resistance and mechanisms of action has provided new perspectives. This review focuses primarily on the proposed alternative mechanisms of action, known resistance mechanisms, and how these support the alternative mechanisms of action.

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