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In-vitro Activity of Avermectins against Mycobacterium ulcerans

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      Abstract

      Mycobacterium ulcerans causes Buruli ulcer (BU), a debilitating infection of subcutaneous tissue. There is a WHO-recommended antibiotic treatment requiring an 8-week course of streptomycin and rifampicin. This regime has revolutionized the treatment of BU but there are problems that include reliance on daily streptomycin injections and side effects such as ototoxicity. Trials of all-oral treatments for BU show promise but additional drug combinations that make BU treatment safer and shorter would be welcome. Following on from reports that avermectins have activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we tested the in-vitro efficacy of ivermectin and moxidectin on M. ulcerans. We observed minimum inhibitory concentrations of 4–8 μg/ml and time-kill assays using wild type and bioluminescent M. ulcerans showed a significant dose-dependent reduction in M. ulcerans viability over 8-weeks. A synergistic killing-effect with rifampicin was also observed. Avermectins are well tolerated, widely available and inexpensive. Based on our in vitro findings we suggest that avermectins should be further evaluated for the treatment of BU.

      Author Summary

      Neglected tropical diseases such as Buruli ulcer predominantly afflict the poorest populations in the world and reduce quality of life. Buruli ulcer is a necrotising infection that destroys the skin and soft tissue, frequently presenting as nodules or open ulcers. Buruli ulcer is treated with antibiotics and sometimes surgery. Unfortunately the antibiotic treatment can have toxic side effects, such as hearing loss. Also, patients must either be hospitalized or report daily to a treatment centre to get their medicine as the treatment is delivered by injection.

      In laboratory experiments we tested the susceptibility of Mycobacterium ulcerans, which causes Buruli ulcer, to avermectins. Avermectins are drugs that are used to treat common parasite and worm infections, such as river blindness. These drugs are inexpensive, have few side effects and are widely available. Our findings show that two avermectins called ivermectin and moxidectin inhibit the growth and also kill Mycobacterium ulcerans strains from both Africa and Australia. If their efficacy and safety also can be proven in animal and human studies, these drugs will provide an inexpensive addition to the current treatment of Buruli ulcer.

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      Insights from the complete genome sequence of Mycobacterium marinum on the evolution of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

      Mycobacterium marinum, a ubiquitous pathogen of fish and amphibia, is a near relative of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the etiologic agent of tuberculosis in humans. The genome of the M strain of M. marinum comprises a 6,636,827-bp circular chromosome with 5424 CDS, 10 prophages, and a 23-kb mercury-resistance plasmid. Prominent features are the very large number of genes (57) encoding polyketide synthases (PKSs) and nonribosomal peptide synthases (NRPSs) and the most extensive repertoire yet reported of the mycobacteria-restricted PE and PPE proteins, and related-ESX secretion systems. Some of the NRPS genes comprise a novel family and seem to have been acquired horizontally. M. marinum is used widely as a model organism to study M. tuberculosis pathogenesis, and genome comparisons confirmed the close genetic relationship between these two species, as they share 3000 orthologs with an average amino acid identity of 85%. Comparisons with the more distantly related Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis reveal how an ancestral generalist mycobacterium evolved into M. tuberculosis and M. marinum. M. tuberculosis has undergone genome downsizing and extensive lateral gene transfer to become a specialized pathogen of humans and other primates without retaining an environmental niche. M. marinum has maintained a large genome so as to retain the capacity for environmental survival while becoming a broad host range pathogen that produces disease strikingly similar to M. tuberculosis. The work described herein provides a foundation for using M. marinum to better understand the determinants of pathogenesis of tuberculosis.
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        Reductive evolution and niche adaptation inferred from the genome of Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of Buruli ulcer.

        Mycobacterium ulcerans is found in aquatic ecosystems and causes Buruli ulcer in humans, a neglected but devastating necrotic disease of subcutaneous tissue that is rampant throughout West and Central Africa. Here, we report the complete 5.8-Mb genome sequence of M. ulcerans and show that it comprises two circular replicons, a chromosome of 5632 kb and a virulence plasmid of 174 kb. The plasmid is required for production of the polyketide toxin mycolactone, which provokes necrosis. Comparisons with the recently completed 6.6-Mb genome of Mycobacterium marinum revealed >98% nucleotide sequence identity and genome-wide synteny. However, as well as the plasmid, M. ulcerans has accumulated 213 copies of the insertion sequence IS2404, 91 copies of IS2606, 771 pseudogenes, two bacteriophages, and multiple DNA deletions and rearrangements. These data indicate that M. ulcerans has recently evolved via lateral gene transfer and reductive evolution from the generalist, more rapid-growing environmental species M. marinum to become a niche-adapted specialist. Predictions based on genome inspection for the production of modified mycobacterial virulence factors, such as the highly abundant phthiodiolone lipids, were confirmed by structural analyses. Similarly, 11 protein-coding sequences identified as M. ulcerans-specific by comparative genomics were verified as such by PCR screening a diverse collection of 33 strains of M. ulcerans and M. marinum. This work offers significant insight into the biology and evolution of mycobacterial pathogens and is an important component of international efforts to counter Buruli ulcer.
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          Antimicrobial treatment for early, limited Mycobacterium ulcerans infection: a randomised controlled trial.

          Surgical debridement was the standard treatment for Mycobacterium ulcerans infection (Buruli ulcer disease) until WHO issued provisional guidelines in 2004 recommending treatment with antimicrobial drugs (streptomycin and rifampicin) in addition to surgery. These recommendations were based on observational studies and a small pilot study with microbiological endpoints. We investigated the efficacy of two regimens of antimicrobial treatment in early-stage M ulcerans infection. In this parallel, open-label, randomised trial undertaken in two sites in Ghana, patients were eligible for enrolment if they were aged 5 years or older and had early (duration <6 months), limited (cross-sectional diameter <10 cm), M ulcerans infection confirmed by dry-reagent-based PCR. Eligible patients were randomly assigned to receive intramuscular streptomycin (15 mg/kg once daily) and oral rifampicin (10 mg/kg once daily) for 8 weeks (8-week streptomycin group; n=76) or streptomycin and rifampicin for 4 weeks followed by rifampicin and clarithromycin (7.5 mg/kg once daily), both orally, for 4 weeks (4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin group; n=75). Randomisation was done by computer-generated minimisation for study site and type of lesion (ulceration or no ulceration). The randomly assigned allocation was sent from a central site by cell-phone text message to the study coordinator. The primary endpoint was lesion healing at 1 year after the start of treatment without lesion recurrence or extensive surgical debridement. Analysis was by intention-to-treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00321178. Four patients were lost to follow-up (8-week streptomycin, one; 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin, three). Since these four participants had healed lesions at their last assessment, they were included in the analysis for the primary endpoint. 73 (96%) participants in the 8-week streptomycin group and 68 (91%) in the 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin group had healed lesions at 1 year (odds ratio 2.49, 95% CI 0.66 to infinity; p=0.16, one-sided Fisher's exact test). No participants had lesion recurrence at 1 year. Three participants had vestibulotoxic events (8-week streptomycin, one; 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin, two). One participant developed an injection abscess and two participants developed an abscess close to the initial lesion, which was incised and drained (all three participants were in the 4-week streptomycin plus 4-week clarithromycin group). Antimycobacterial treatment for M ulcerans infection is effective in early, limited disease. 4 weeks of streptomycin and rifampicin followed by 4 weeks of rifampicin and clarithromycin has similar efficacy to 8 weeks of streptomycin and rifampicin; however, the number of injections of streptomycin can be reduced by switching to oral clarithromycin after 4 weeks. European Union (EU FP6 2003-INCO-Dev2-015476) and Buruli Ulcer Groningen Foundation. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
            [2 ]University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Department of Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases, Groningen, The Netherlands
            [3 ]Austin Centre for Infection Research (ACIR), Infectious Diseases Department, Austin Health, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
            [4 ]Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
            [5 ]University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Department of Pulmonary Diseases and Tuberculosis, Groningen, The Netherlands
            Fondation Raoul Follereau, FRANCE
            Author notes

            The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

            Conceived and designed the experiments: TPS PDRJ YS TSvdW. Performed the experiments: TFO JLP. Analyzed the data: TFO TPS. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: TFO JLP PDRJ TSvdW YS TPS. Wrote the paper: TFO JLP PDRJ TSW YS TPS.

            Contributors
            Role: Editor
            Journal
            PLoS Negl Trop Dis
            PLoS Negl Trop Dis
            plos
            plosntds
            PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
            Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
            1935-2727
            1935-2735
            5 March 2015
            March 2015
            : 9
            : 3
            25742173 4351077 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003549 PNTD-D-14-01947

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

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            Figures: 2, Tables: 1, Pages: 7
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            Funding
            TPS was supported by a Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (GNT1008549, www.nhmrc.gov.au). TFO was supported by the Buruli ulcer Groningen foundation ( https://buruli1ulcer2groningen3.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/buruli-ulcer-groningen/). YS was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (91610074, VENI grant, www.nwo.nl/en/funding). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparations of the manuscript.
            Categories
            Research Article
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            All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

            Infectious disease & Microbiology

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