Polymyxins are last-resort antibiotics for treating infections of Gram-negative bacteria. The recent emergence of polymyxin-resistant bacteria, however, urgently demands clinical optimisation of polymyxin use to minimise further evolution of resistance. In this study we developed a novel combination therapy using minimal concentrations of polymyxin B. After large-scale screening of Streptomyces secondary metabolites, we identified a reliable polymixin synergist and confirmed as netropsin using high-pressure liquid chromatography, nuclear magnetic resonance, and mass spectrometry followed by in vitro assays using various Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria. To evaluate the effectiveness of combining polymixin B and netropsin in vivo, we performed survival analysis on greater wax moth Galleria mellonella infected with colistin-resistant clinical Acinetobacter baumannii isolates as well as Escherichia coli, Shigella flexineri, Salmonella typhimuruim, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The survival of infected G. mellonella was significantly higher when treated with polymyxin B and netropsin in combination than when treated with polymyxin B or netropsin alone. We propose a netropsin combination therapy that minimises the use of polymyxin B when treating infections with multidrug resistant Gram-negative bacteria.
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