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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2017 Sep 1;72(suppl_2):i20-i23. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkx303.

Failure of the azithromycin and ethambutol combination regimen in the hollow-fibre system model of pulmonary Mycobacterium avium infection is due to acquired resistance.

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Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Experimental Therapeutics, Baylor Research Institute, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA.
Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Observatory, Cape Town, South Africa.



To investigate the performance of the two backbone drugs in the standard combination therapy regimen in the hollow-fibre system (HFS) model of pulmonary Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection.


Six HFS were inoculated with human-derived monocytes infected with MAC, and treated with 15 mg/kg of ethambutol and 500 mg of azithromycin daily for 28 days to recapitulate the concentration-time profiles seen in the lungs of humans treated with these drugs and doses. The concentration-time profiles achieved were validated by sampling the central compartment at seven timepoints over 24 h. The total MAC burden, as well as the subpopulation resistant to 3 × MIC of each drug, was identified based on sampling the peripheral compartment of each system on days 0, 3, 7, 14, 21 and 28 of therapy. The experiment was performed twice.


In non-treated control HFS, MAC grew from 5.0 to 8.53 log10 cfu/mL in 28 days. The dual therapy killed a maximum of 1.52 ± 0.43 log10 cfu/mL during the first 7 days, after which it failed. By day 28 there was no difference in MAC burden between the combination-therapy-treated and non-treated systems. Failure arose in parallel with the emergence of acquired ethambutol resistance. By day 28, 100% of the bacterial population was ethambutol resistant in the combination-therapy-treated HFS replicates.


The backbone combination of macrolide and ethambutol has poor MAC kill rates and is ineffective. Microbial kill is rapidly abrogated by acquired drug resistance. This backbone should be replaced.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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