Enhanced killing of intracellular multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis by compounds that affect the activity of efflux pumps

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Whereas human neutrophils are effective and efficient killers of bacteria, macrophages such as those derived from monocytes are almost devoid of killing activity. Nevertheless, monocytes can be transformed into effective killers of mycobacteria or staphylococci when exposed to clinical concentrations of a phenothiazine or to inhibitors of efflux pumps (reserpine and verapamil), or to ouabain, an inhibitor of K+ transport. Because the rates of multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MDR-TB) continue to escalate globally, and because no new effective drug has been made available for almost 40 years, compounds that enhance the killing activity of monocytes against MDR-TB are obviously needed. This review covers the specific characteristics of MDR-TB, identifies a variety of agents that address these characteristics and therefore have potential for managing MDR-TB. Because the mechanism by which these agents enhance the killing of intracellular bacteria is important for the intelligent design of new anti-tubercular agents, the review correlates the mechanisms by which these agents manifest their effects. Lastly, a model is presented which describes the mechanisms by which distinct efflux pumps of the phagosome-lysosome complex are inhibited by agents that are known to inhibit K+ flux. The model also predicts the existence of a K+ activated exchange (pump) that is probably located in the membrane that delineates the lysosome. This putative pump, which is immune to inhibitors of K+ flux, is identified as being the cause for the acidification of the lysosome thereby activating its hydrolytic enzymes. Because the non-killer macrophage can be transformed into an effective killer by a variety of compounds that inhibit K1 transport, perhaps it would be wise to develop drugs that enhance the killing activity of these cells inasmuch as this approach would not be subject to any resistance, as is the eventual case for conventional antibiotics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1237-1246
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
VolumeVol. 59
Issue numbern.º 6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


  • Killing activity
  • MDR-TB
  • Phenothiazines


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