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‘Old’ antibiotics for emerging multidrug-resistant bacteria

Bergen, Phillip J.a,b; Landersdorfer, Cornelia B.a,b; Lee, Hee Jia; Li, Jiana,*; Nation, Roger L.a,*

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: December 2012 - Volume 25 - Issue 6 - p 626–633
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e328358afe5
ANTIMICROBIAL AGENTS: Edited by Monica A. Slavin, Simon L. Croft and Deenan Pillay

Purpose of review Increased emergence of bacterial resistance and the decline in newly developed antibiotics have necessitated the reintroduction of previously abandoned antimicrobial agents active against multidrug-resistant bacteria. Having never been subjected to contemporary drug development procedures, these ‘old’ antibiotics require redevelopment in order to optimize therapy. This review focuses on colistin as an exemplar of a successful redevelopment process and briefly discusses two other old antibiotics, fusidic acid and fosfomycin.

Recent findings Redevelopment of colistin led to an improved understanding of its chemistry, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, enabling important steps towards optimizing its clinical use in different patient populations. A scientifically based dosing algorithm was developed for critically ill patients, including those with renal impairment. As nephrotoxicity is a dose-limiting adverse event of colistin, rational combination therapy with other antibiotics needs to be investigated.

Summary The example of colistin demonstrated that state-of-the-art analytical, microbiological and pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic methods can facilitate optimized use of ‘old’ antibiotics in the clinic. Similar methods are now being applied to fosfomycin and fusidic acid in order to optimize therapy. To improve and preserve the usefulness of these antibiotics rational approaches for redevelopment need to be followed.

aDrug Delivery, Disposition and Dynamics, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

bCentre for Medicine Use and Safety, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

*Jian Li and Roger L. Nation contributed equally to the writing of this article.

Correspondence to Roger L. Nation, Drug Delivery, Disposition and Dynamics, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville Campus, 381 Royal Parade, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia. Tel: +61 3 9903 9061; fax: +61 3 9903 9583; e-mail:;

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.