When used together, otherwise ineffective antibiotics can eradicate superbugs

In the fight against deadly superbugs, combinations of antibiotics may provide a strong defense. Two new studies show that when certain antibiotics are combined they can kill, and in some cases prevent re-growth, of some antimicrobial-resistant pathogens.

One study, published in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, examined the use of polymyxin B, meropenem and ampicillin-sulbactam against the drug-resistant pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii.

The antibiotics were used individually, in pairs and then all three together. The study shows that the antibiotics could not eradicate the pathogen when used alone. When used in pairs, the antibiotics could kill the pathogen, but it re-grew within three days. When all three antibiotics were used together, the pathogen was eradicated and it did not grow back within 96 hours.

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The second study, published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, tested the efficacy of polymyxin B, meropenem and rifampin in fighting the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Similar to the first study, the three antibiotics were tested individually, in pairs and all together. Once again, when used individually the antibiotics did not kill the bacterium; and when used in pairs, they killed the bacterium but it grew back in 30 hours. The triple antibiotic combination of could kill the bacteria and prevent re-growth for 72 hours.

Both Acinetobacter baumannii and Klebsiella pneumoniae are a part of six ESKAPE pathogens, which are drug-resistant bacteria causing more than 2 million infections per year, according to the CDC.

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