Publication: Repositioning rafoxanide to treat Gram-negative bacilli infections
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Objectives: Repurposing drugs provides a new approach to the fight against MDR Gram-negative bacilli (MDR-GNB). Rafoxanide, a veterinary antihelminthic drug, has shown antibacterial activity in vitro against Gram-positive bacteria. We aimed to analyse the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of rafoxanide in combination with colistin against colistin-susceptible (Col-S) and colistin-resistant (Col-R) GNB. Methods: A collection of Col-S and Col-R Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae were used. Chequerboard and time-kill curve analyses were performed to determine the synergy between rafoxanide and colistin. Changes in membrane structure and permeability were analysed using transmission electron microscopy and fluorescence assays. A murine peritoneal sepsis model using Col-R strains of these pathogens was performed to study the efficacy of rafoxanide (10 mg/kg/24 h, IV), colistimethate sodium (CMS) (20 mg/kg/8 h, intraperitoneally) and rafoxanide (10 mg/kg/24 h, IV) plus CMS (20 mg/kg/8 h, intraperitoneally) for 72 h. Results: Rafoxanide showed MICs ≥256 mg/L for all Col-S and Col-R strains. Chequerboard and time-kill curve analyses showed that rafoxanide (1 mg/L) is more synergistic with colistin against Col-R than Col-S strains. Col-R, but not Col-S, strains treated with rafoxanide demonstrated higher membrane permeabilization. Transmission electron microscopy visualization confirmed that Col-R strains suffer morphological changes. In the murine peritoneal sepsis model with Col-R strains, rafoxanide plus CMS, compared with CMS alone, increased mouse survival to 53.8% and 73.3%, and reduced bacterial loads in tissues and blood between 2.34 and 4.99 log10 cfu/g or mL, respectively. Conclusions: Rafoxanide repurposing, as monotherapy and in combination with CMS, may address the urgent need for new treatments for infections caused by MDR-GNB.