Rapid Cytolysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by Faropenem, an Orally Bioavailable beta-Lactam Antibiotic
Recent clinical studies indicate that meropenem, a beta-lactam antibiotic, is a promising candidate for therapy of drug-resistant tuberculosis. However, meropenem is chemically unstable, requires frequent intravenous injection, and must be combined with a beta-lactamase inhibitor (clavulanate) for optimal activity. Here, we report that faropenem, a stable and orally bioavailable beta-lactam, efficiently kills Mycobacterium tuberculosis even in the absence of clavulanate. The target enzymes, L, D-transpeptidases, were inactivated 6- to 22-fold more efficiently by faropenem than by meropenem. Using a real-time assay based on quantitative time-lapse microscopy and microfluidics, we demonstrate the superiority of faropenem to the frontline antituberculosis drug isoniazid in its ability to induce the rapid cytolysis of single cells. Faropenem also showed superior activity against a cryptic sub-population of nongrowing but metabolically active cells, which may correspond to the viable but nonculturable forms believed to be responsible for relapses following prolonged chemotherapy. These results identify faropenem to be a potential candidate for alternative therapy of drug-resistant tuberculosis.