Clarithromycin against Mycobacterium avium complex infections
The turning point in antimicrobial therapy of Mycobacterium avium infections came with the development of two new macrolides, clarithromycin and azithromycin. Controlled clinical trials, the first ever conducted with any agent among patients with M. avium infection, indicated the high efficiency of clarithromycin, in either acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients having a disseminated infection or non-AIDS patients with localized pulmonary disease. Monotherapy with clarithromycin resulted in elimination of bacteremia in almost all patients with disseminated infection, which is inevitably followed by a relapse of bacteremia in patients who survived long enough to reach this event. The strains susceptible to clarithromycin isolated before therapy contained 10-8 or 10-9 resistant mutants, and the relapses of bacteremia were caused by multiplication of these pre-existing mutants. Clarithromycin-resistance was associated with a mutation in the 23S rRNA gene. Cross-resistance between clarithromycin and azithromycin was confirmed with laboratory mutants and clinical isolates. At least two methods for determining the susceptibility of the M. avium isolates to clarithromycin are available: one is minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) determination on Mueller-Hinton agar (pH 7.4) supplemented with 10% Oleic acid-albumin-dextrose catalase, the other is MIC determination in 7H12 broth, also at pH 7.4. The breakpoints for 'susceptible' for these methods are < or = 8.0 micrograms/ml and < or = 2.0 micrograms/ml, respectively. The breakpoints for 'resistant' are > 128 micrograms/ml for the agar method and > 32.0 micrograms/ml for the broth method. The predictability value of MIC determination was confirmed by comparing the test results with the patients' clinical and bacteriological response to therapy. The remaining major problem in the therapy of the M. avium infections is a selection of companion drugs to be used in combination with clarithromycin (or azithromycin) to prevent the emergence of the macrolide-resistance. A number of clinical trials are now in progress to find a solution to this problem.
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