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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1994 Sep;38(9):2054-8.

Metronidazole is bactericidal to dormant cells of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Tuberculosis Research Laboratory, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Long Beach, California 90822.


Very abrupt exposure to anaerobic conditions has a lethal effect on actively growing cultures of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, incubation under conditions in which oxygen is depleted gradually causes M. tuberculosis to shift down from active replication to dormancy. The dormant bacilli are resistant to the bactericidal effects of anaerobiosis and also exhibit partial or complete resistance to the bactericidal effects of isoniazid and rifampin. On the other hand, metronidazole, a drug specific for anaerobes, kills dormant tubercle bacilli under anaerobic conditions, but it has no effect on actively growing aerobic cultures. The lethal effect of metronidazole under anaerobic conditions is enhanced by rifampin. The possible implications of these findings on the phenomenon of latency in tuberculosis are discussed.

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