Research ArticleANTIBIOTICS

Potentiating antibiotics in drug-resistant clinical isolates via stimuli-activated superoxide generation

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Science Advances  04 Oct 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 10, e1701776
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701776

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The rise of multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria is a growing concern to global health and is exacerbated by the lack of new antibiotics. To treat already pervasive MDR infections, new classes of antibiotics or antibiotic adjuvants are needed. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been shown to play a role during antibacterial action; however, it is not yet understood whether ROS contribute directly to or are an outcome of bacterial lethality caused by antibiotics. We show that a light-activated nanoparticle, designed to produce tunable flux of specific ROS, superoxide, potentiates the activity of antibiotics in clinical MDR isolates of Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Despite the high degree of antibiotic resistance in these isolates, we observed a synergistic interaction between both bactericidal and bacteriostatic antibiotics with varied mechanisms of action and our superoxide-producing nanoparticles in more than 75% of combinations. As a result of this potentiation, the effective antibiotic concentration of the clinical isolates was reduced up to 1000-fold below their respective sensitive/resistant breakpoint. Further, superoxide-generating nanoparticles in combination with ciprofloxacin reduced bacterial load in epithelial cells infected with S. enterica serovar Typhimurium and increased Caenorhabditis elegans survival upon infection with S. enterica serovar Enteriditis, compared to antibiotic alone. This demonstration highlights the ability to engineer superoxide generation to potentiate antibiotic activity and combat highly drug-resistant bacterial pathogens.

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