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J Antimicrob Chemother. 1985 Jul;16 Suppl A:181-94.

Drug interactions and hepatitis produced by some macrolide antibiotics.


Drug interactions involving macrolides have been mainly reported in subjects receiving troleandomycin and in a few receiving erythromycin derivatives. In rats and in humans, troleandomycin, erythromycin and erythromycin derivatives induce microsomal enzymes; the induced isozymes of cytochrome P-450 have a high activity for these macrolides but a poor activity with several other substrates. These isozymes actively demethylate and oxidize these macrolides into nitrosoalkanes which form stable, inactive complexes with the iron of cytochrome P-450. Eventually, the oxidative metabolism of other drugs may be decreased. These effects are marked after administration of troleandomycin, moderate after administration of erythromycin derivatives and absent (or negligible) after administration of spiramycin, josamycin or midecamycin. A second adverse effect of the administration of troleandomycin or erythromycin derivatives is the possible occurrence of hepatitis. Mild hepatic dysfunction is fairly frequent and may be toxic in type. In contrast, jaundice is common, is frequently associated with hypersensitivity, and promptly recurs when the drug is readministered. Troleandomycin and erythromycin derivatives, which form nitrosoalkanes, produce hepatitis, whereas josamycin, midecamycin and spiramycin, which do not form cytochrome P-450-nitrosoalkane complexes, rarely, if ever, produce hepatitis. Nitrosoalkanes are unstable intermediates which react with glutathione but also with cysteine and might covalently bind to the SH-groups of proteins. The following mechanism might be proposed as a hypothetical attempt to link up these various observations. The macrolide (or its reactive metabolite) may have discrete toxicity; in several subjects, this may produce minor liver lesions and a mildly raised aminotransferase activity. Necrosis of a few hepatocytes may release into the circulation plasma membrane proteins altered by the covalent binding of metabolites. Such modified liver antigens may be recognized as foreign and may trigger, in an exceptional subject, an immunoallergic type of clinical hepatitis.

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