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Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are highly drug-resistant, opportunistic pathogens that can cause pulmonary disease. The outcomes of the currently recommended treatment regimens are poor, especially for Mycobacterium abscessus New or repurposed drugs are direly needed. Auranofin, a gold-based antirheumatic agent, was investigated for Mycobacterium tuberculosis Here, we test auranofin against NTM in vitro and ex vivo We tested the susceptibility of 63 NTM isolates to auranofin using broth microdilution. Next, we assessed synergy between auranofin and antimycobacterial drugs using the checkerboard method and calculated the fractional inhibition concentration index (FICI). Using time-kill kinetics assays (TK), we assessed pharmacodynamics of auranofin alone and in combination with drug combinations showing the lowest FICIs for M. abscessus CIP 104536. A response surface analysis was used to assess synergistic interactions over time in TKs. Primary isolated macrophages were infected with M. abscessus and treated with auranofin. Finally, using KEGG Orthology, we looked for orthologues to auranofins drug target in M. tuberculosis M. abscessus had the lowest auranofin MIC50 (2 μg/ml) among the tested NTM. The lowest average FICIs were observed between auranofin and amikacin (0.45) and linezolid (0.50). Auranofin exhibited concentration-dependent killing of M. abscessus, with >1-log killing at concentrations of >2× MIC. Only amikacin was synergistic with auranofin according to Bliss independence. Auranofin could not lower the intracellular bacterial load in macrophages. Auranofin itself may not be feasible for M. abscessus treatment, but these data point toward a promising, unutilized drug target.

Original publication





Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy

Publication Date





Radboud Center for Infectious Diseases, Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Macrophages, Humans, Mycobacterium, Auranofin, Bacterial Proteins, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Drug Therapy, Combination, Microbial Sensitivity Tests, Phylogeny, Kinetics, Thioredoxin-Disulfide Reductase, Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous, Mycobacterium abscessus