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J Antimicrob Chemother. 1998 Mar;41(3):341-7.

Antibacterial efficacy of nisin against multidrug-resistant Gram-positive pathogens.

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The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The rapid spread of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens necessitates the search for alternative antibacterial agents. We examined the efficacy of the antibiotic nisin against 56 multidrug-resistant isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae, 33 Staphylococcus aureus and 29 vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis isolates. The test strains represented a large variety of clonal types (as determined by a combination of DNA fingerprints) isolated from a variety of geographic sources, and included some of the major internationally-spread multiresistant epidemic clones of S. pneumoniae and methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), MRSA strains resistant to over 16 generically distinct antibacterial agents, and enterococcal strains resistant to all currently available chemotherapeutic agents including glycopeptides. In the overwhelming majority of cases, treatment of growing cultures with nisin at 1 mg/L (S. pneumoniae) or 10-20 mg/L (in MRSA and enterococci) caused extensive (10(3)- to 10(4)-fold) loss of viable titre accompanied by various degrees of loss in the optical density of the cultures, which was most extensive in pneumococci (>90%) and least extensive (40-50%) in enterococci. Nevertheless, extensive variation in rates of nisin-induced autolysis was observed in each bacterial species. Serial exposure of a penicillin-susceptible strain of S. pneumoniae to nisin (1 mg/L) in liquid culture resulted in the rapid appearance of stable nisin-resistant mutants in which the MIC increased from 0.4 to 6.4 mg/L and the resistance trait was transferable by genetic transformation.

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