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BMC Microbiol. 2019 Mar 8;19(1):54. doi: 10.1186/s12866-019-1416-8.

Cationic antimicrobial peptides: alternatives and/or adjuvants to antibiotics active against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Microbiology Laboratory, School of Pharmacy, Saint Joseph University, Beirut, Lebanon.
Microbiology Laboratory, School of Pharmacy, Saint Joseph University, Beirut, Lebanon.
College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Unité de Mucoviscidose et Bronchopathies Chroniques, Institut Pasteur/Faculté de Médecine Cochin, Paris, France.



Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa are becoming difficult to treat with antibiotics whereas Cationic Antimicrobial Peptides (CAMPs) represent promising alternatives. The effects of four CAMPs (LL-37: human cathelicidin, CAMA: cecropin(1-7)-melittin A(2-9) amide, magainin-II and nisin) were investigated against clinical and laboratory S. aureus (n = 10) and P. aeruginosa (n = 11) isolates either susceptible or resistant to antibiotics. Minimal Inhibitory Concentrations (MICs), Minimal Bactericidal Concentrations (MBCs), and bacterial survival rates (2 h post-treatment) were determined by microbroth dilution. The antipseudomonal effects of the antibiotics colistin or imipenem combined to LL-37 or CAMA were also studied. The toxicity of CAMPs used alone and in combination with antibiotics was evaluated on two human lung epithelial cell lines by determining the quantity of released cytoplasmic lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Attempts to induce bacterial resistance to gentamicin, LL-37 or CAMA were also performed.


The results revealed the rapid antibacterial effect of LL-37 and CAMA against both antibiotic susceptible and resistant strains with almost a total reduction in bacterial count 2 h post-treatment. Magainin-II and nisin were less active against tested strains. When antibiotics were combined with LL-37 or CAMA, MICs of colistin decreased up to eight-fold and MICs of imipenem decreased up to four-fold. Cytotoxicity assays revealed non-significant LDH-release suggesting no cell damage in all experiments. Induction of bacterial resistance to LL-37 was transient, tardive and much lower than that to gentamicin and induction of resistance to CAMA was not observed.


This study showed the potent and rapid antibacterial activity of CAMPs on both laboratory and clinical isolates of S. aureus and P. aeruginosa either susceptible or resistant to antibiotics. Most importantly, CAMPs synergized the efficacy of antibiotics, had non toxic effects on human cells and were associated with transient and low levels of induced resistance.


Alternative to antibiotics; Cationic antimicrobial peptides; Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; Multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa

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