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Synergistic combinations of anthelmintic salicylanilides oxyclozanide, rafoxanide, and closantel with colistin eradicates multidrug-resistant colistin-resistant Gram-negative bacilli


Repurposing nonantibiotic drugs for antimicrobial therapy presents a viable approach to drug discovery. Development of therapeutic strategies that overcome existing resistance mechanisms is important especially against those bacterial infections in which treatment options are limited, such as against multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacilli. Herein, we provide in vitro data that suggest the addition of anthelmintic salicylanilides, including oxyclozanide, rafoxanide, and closantel, in colistin therapy to treat multidrug-resistant colistin-susceptible but more importantly colistin-resistant Gram-negative bacilli. As a stand-alone agent, the three salicylanilides suffered from limited outer membrane permeation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with oxyclozanide also susceptible to efflux. Synergy was apparent for the combinations against multidrug-resistant clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, and Enterobacter cloacae. Susceptibility breakpoints for colistin, but also with polymyxin B, were reached upon addition of 1 µg ml−1 of the corresponding salicylanilide against colistin-resistant Gram-negative bacilli. Furthermore, enhanced bacterial killing was observed in all combinations. Our data corroborate the repositioning of the three salicylanilides as adjuvants to counter resistance to the antibiotic of last resort colistin. Our findings are timely and relevant since the global dissemination of plasmid-mediated colistin resistance had been realized.

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This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada NSERC-DG (2018-06047) and the University of Manitoba. We thank Dr. Ayush Kumar (University of Manitoba) for generously providing access to efflux-deficient P. aeruginosa strains PAO200 and PAO750.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Correspondence to Frank Schweizer.

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