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PeerJ. 2017 Oct 24;5:e3952. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3952. eCollection 2017.

Statins: antimicrobial resistance breakers or makers?

Author information

1
School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
2
Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI) Biosciences Research Precinct, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

The repurposing of non-antibiotic drugs as adjuvant antibiotics may help break antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Statins are commonly prescribed worldwide to lower cholesterol. They also possess qualities of AMR "breakers", namely direct antibacterial activity, synergism with antibiotics, and ability to stimulate the host immune system. However, statins' role as AMR breakers may be limited. Their current extensive use for cardiovascular protection might result in selective pressures for resistance, ironically causing statins to be AMR "makers" instead. This review examines statins' potential as AMR breakers, probable AMR makers, and identifies knowledge gaps in a statin-bacteria-human-environment continuum. The most suitable statin for repurposing is identified, and a mechanism of antibacterial action is postulated based on structure-activity relationship analysis.

METHODS:

A literature search using keywords "statin" or "statins" combined with "minimum inhibitory concentration" (MIC) was performed in six databases on 7th April 2017. After screening 793 abstracts, 16 relevant studies were identified. Unrelated studies on drug interactions; antifungal or antiviral properties of statins; and antibacterial properties of mevastatin, cerivastatin, antibiotics, or natural products were excluded. Studies involving only statins currently registered for human use were included.

RESULTS:

Against Gram-positive bacteria, simvastatin generally exerted the greatest antibacterial activity (lowest MIC) compared to atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, and fluvastatin. Against Gram-negative bacteria, atorvastatin generally exhibited similar or slightly better activity compared to simvastatin, but both were more potent than rosuvastatin and fluvastatin.

DISCUSSION:

Statins may serve as AMR breakers by working synergistically with existing topical antibiotics, attenuating virulence factors, boosting human immunity, or aiding in wound healing. It is probable that statins' mechanism of antibacterial activity involves interference of bacterial cell regulatory functions via binding and disrupting cell surface structures such as wall teichoic acids, lipoteichoic acids, lipopolysaccharides, and/or surface proteins. The widespread use of statins for cardiovascular protection may favor selective pressures or co-selection for resistance, including dysbiosis of the human gut microbiota, sublethal plasma concentrations in bacteremic patients, and statin persistence in the environment, all possibly culminating in AMR.

CONCLUSION:

Simvastatin appears to be the most suitable statin for repurposing as a novel adjuvant antibiotic. Current evidence better supports statins as potential AMR breakers, but their role as plausible AMR makers cannot be excluded. Elucidating the mechanism of statins' antibacterial activity is perhaps the most important knowledge gap to address as this will likely clarify statins' role as AMR breakers or makers.

KEYWORDS:

Antibacterial mechanism; Antimicrobial resistance; Drug repurposing; Minimum inhibitory concentration; Statins

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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