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Colistin (polymyxin E) is a polymyxin antibiotic produced by certain strains of Paenibacillus polymyxa var.
colistinus. Colistin is a mixture of cyclic polypeptides
colistin A and B. Colistin is eective against most Gramnegative bacilli and is used as a polypeptide antibiotic. It
is commercially available as 'Xylistin' (India, marketed
by CIpla Pharmaceuticals ltd) and 'Koolistin' (India, registered and marketed by Biocon ltd)

fections caused by carbapenem-resistant isolates of

Acinetobacter baumannii.[5]
Colistin sulfate may be used to treat intestinal infections, or to suppress colonic ora. Colistin sulfate is
also used as topical creams, powders, and otic solutions.

Colistin is a decades-old drug that fell out of favor

due to its nephrotoxicity. It remains one of the lastresort antibiotics for multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Acinetobacter.[1]
Enterobacteriaceae have also shown susceptibility to

Colistin A (polymyxin E1) and colistin B

(polymyxin E2) can be puried individually to
research and study their eects and potencies as
separate compounds.

2.2 Dosage

Colistin sulfate and colistimethate sodium may both be

given intravenously, but the dosing is complicated. The
very dierent labeling of the parenteral products of colColistin was derived from a ask of fermenting bacteria istin methanesulfonate in dierent parts of the world was
rst revealed by Li et al.[10] Colistimethate sodium manby a Japanese researcher in 1949.[3]
ufactured by Xellia (Colomycin injection) is prescribed
in international units, but colistimethate sodium manufactured by Parkdale Pharmaceuticals (Coly-Mycin M
2 Administration and dosage
Parenteral) is prescribed in milligrams of colistin base:




Colomycin 1,000,000

There are two forms of colistin available commercially:

colistin sulfate and colistimethate sodium (colistin
methanesulfonate sodium, colistin sulfomethate sodium).
Colistin sulfate is cationic; colistimethate sodium is
anionic. Colistin sulfate is stable, but colistimethate
sodium is readily hydrolysed to a variety of methanesulfonated derivatives. Colistin sulfate and colistimethate
sodium are eliminated from the body by dierent routes.
With respect to Pseudomonas aeruginosa, colistimethate
is the inactive prodrug of colistin. The two drugs are not
interchangeable .





Coly-mycin M 150 mg colistin base is 360 mg colistimethate or 4,500,000 units.[12]

Because colistin was introduced into clinical practice over
50 years ago, it was never subject to the regulations that
modern drugs are subject to, and therefore there is no
standardised dosing of colistin and no detailed trials on
pharmacology or pharmacokinetics: The optimal dosing of colistin for most infections is therefore unknown.
Colomycin has a recommended intravenous dose of 1 to
2 million units three times daily for patients weighing 60
kg or more with normal renal function. Coly-Mycin has
a recommended dose of 2.5 to 5 mg/kg colistin base a
day, which is equivalent to 6 to 12 mg/kg colistimethate
sodium per day. For a 60 kg man, therefore, the recommended dose for Colomycin is 240 to 480 mg of colistimethate sodium, yet the recommended dose for ColyMycin is 360 to 720 mg of colistimethate sodium. Likewise, the recommended maximum dose for each preparation is dierent (480 mg for Colomycin and 720 mg for

Colistimethate sodium may be used to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in cystic brosis patients, and it has come into recent use for treating multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter infection, although resistant forms have been reported.[4][5]
Colistimethate sodium has also been given intrathecally and intraventricularly in Acinetobacter
baumanii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa meningitis/ventriculitis [6][7][8][9] Some studies have indicated that colistin may be useful for treating in1


Coly-Mycin). Each country has dierent generic prepa- 5 Resistance

rations of colistin, and the recommended dose will depend on the manufacturer. This complete absence of any Resistance to colistin is currently rare, but is described.
regulation or standardisation of dose makes intravenous At present there is no agreement about how to look for
colistin dosing dicult for any physician.
colistin resistance. The Socit Franaise de MicrobioloColistin has been used in combination with rifampicin, gie uses a cut o of 2 mg/l, whereas the British Society
and there is in-vitro evidence of synergy,[13][14] and the for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy sets a cuto of 4 mg/l or
combination has been used successfully in patients.[15] less as sensitive, and 8 mg/ml or more as resistant. There
There is also in-vitro evidence of synergy for colis- are not currently any US standards for measuring colistin
timethate sodium used in combination with other an- sensitivity.
tipseudomonal antibiotics.[16]
India reported the rst clear and detailed colistinColistimethate sodium aerosol (Promixin; Colomycin
Injection) is used to treat pulmonary infections, especially in cystic brosis. In the UK, the recommended
adult dose is 12 million units (80160 mg) nebulised
colistimethate twice daily.[17][18]

resistance study which mapped 13 colistin-resistant cases

recorded over 18 months. It concluded that pan-drug resistant infections, particularly those in the blood stream,
have a higher mortality. Multiple other cases were reported from other Indian Hospitals.[23][24]

Use of colistin to treat Acinetobacter baumannii infections has, as with other antibiotics, led to the development
of resistant bacterial strains. These resistant strains have
3 Mode of action
also been shown to develop resistance to antimicrobial
compounds, including LL-37 and lysozyme, produced as
Colistin is polycationic and has both hydrophilic and
part of the human hosts immune system.[25]
lipophilic moieties. These poly-cationic regions interact
with the bacterial outer membrane, by displacing bacterial counter ions in the lipopolysaccharide. Hydrophobic/hydrophilic regions interact with the cytoplasmic 5.1 Exceptional (inherently colistin resistant) Gram-negative bacteria
membrane just like a detergent, solubilizing the membrane in an aqueous environment. This eect is bacte Brucella
ricidal even in an isosmolaric environment.
Burkholderia cepacia

Spectrum of bacterial susceptibility

Colistin has been eective in treating infections caused

by Pseudomonas, Escherichia, and Klebsiella genera. The
following represents MIC susceptibility data for a few
medically signicant microorganisms.
Escherichia coli: 0.12128 g/ml
Klebsiella pneumoniae: 0.25128 g/ml
Pseudomonas aeruginosa: 0.0616 g/ml

Chryseobacterium indologenes
Elizabethkingia meningoseptica
Francisella tularensis spp.
Gram-negative cocci
Helicobacter pylori
Moraxella catarrhalis
Morganella spp.


Colestin in combination with other drugs are used to

attack P. aeruginosa biolm infection in lungs of CF
patients.[21] Biolms have a low oxygen environment below the surface where bacteria are metabolically inactive.
Colestin is highly eective in this environment. However,
P. aeruginosa in the outer layers where they are metabolically active can develop resistance to colestin.[22] Consequently, a drug combination attacking both the inactive
and active forms of P. aeruginosa is highly eective.

Neisseria gonorrheae and Neisseria meningitidis

Some strains of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia[26]


Gram-negative organisms with variable resistance to colistin



There is no clinically useful absorption of colistin from

the gastrointestinal tract. For systemic infection, colistin
must, therefore, be given by injection. Colistimethate is
eliminated by the kidneys, but colistin is supposed to be
eliminated by non-renal mechanism(s) that are as yet not

Adverse reactions

The main toxicities described with intravenous treatment

are nephrotoxicity (damage to the kidneys) and neurotoxicity (damage to the nerves),[29][30][31][32] but this may
reect the very high doses given, which are much higher
than the doses currently recommended by any manufacturer and for which no adjustment was made for renal disease. Neuro- and nephrotoxic eects appear to be transient and subside on discontinuation of therapy or reduction in dose.[33]

[3] Vastag, Brian (2012), NIH Superbug Outbreak Shows

Lack of Antibiotics, The Washington Post, Saturday, 25
August 2012; pg A2.
[4] Reis AO, Luz DA, Tognim MC, Sader HS, Gales AC
(2003). Polymyxin-Resistant Acinetobacter spp. Isolates: What Is Next?". Emerg Infect Dis 9: 10257.
doi:10.3201/eid0908.030052. PMID 12971377.
[5] Towner K J (2008). Molecular Basis of Antibiotic Resistance in Acinetobacter spp.. Acinetobacter Molecular
Biology. Caister Academic Press. ISBN 0-306-43902-6.
[6] Benia M, Zucker G, Cohen A, Alkan M (2004). Successful treatment of Acinetobacter meningitis with intrathecal polymyxin. J Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
54 (1): 290293. doi:10.1093/jac/dkh289. PMID
[7] Yagmur R, Esen F (2006). Intrathecal colistin for treatment of Pseudomonas aeruginosa ventriculitis: report of a
case with successful outcome. Critical Care 10 (6): 428.
doi:10.1186/cc5088. PMC 1794456. PMID 17214907.
[8] Motaouakkil S, Charra B, Hachimi A, Nejmi H,
Benslama A, Elmdaghri N et al. (2006). Colistin and
rifampicin in the treatment of nosocomial infections from
multiresistant Acinetobacter baumannii. Journal of Infection 53 (4): 274278. doi:10.1016/j.jinf.2005.11.019.
PMID 16442632.
[9] Karakitsos D, Paramythiotou E, Samonis G, Karabinis A
(2006). Is intraventricular colistin an eective and safe
treatment for post-surgical ventriculitis in the intensive
care unit?". Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 50 (10): 1309
1310. doi:10.1111/j.1399-6576.2006.01126.x. PMID

At a dose of 160 mg colistimethate IV every eight hours,

very little nephrotoxicity is seen.[34][35] Indeed, colistin [10] Li J, Nation RL, Turnidge JD, Milne RW, Coulthard K,
appears to have less toxicity than the aminoglycosides that
Rayner CR et al. (2006). Colistin: the re-emerging
subsequently replaced it, and colistin has been used for
antibiotic for multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteextended periods of up to six months with no ill eects.[36]
rial infections. Lancet Infect Dis 6 (9): 589601.
doi:10.1016/s1473-3099(06)70580-1. PMID 16931410.
The main toxicity described with aerosolised treatment
is bronchospasm,
which can be treated or prevented [11] Colomycin injection [Summary of product characterwith the use of beta2-agonists such as salbutamol [38] or
istics]. http://emc.medicines.org.uk/emc/assets/c/html/
following a desensitisation protocol.[39]


[1] Falagas ME, Grammatikos AP, Michalopoulos A (October 2008). Potential of old-generation antibiotics
to address current need for new antibiotics. Expert review of anti-infective therapy 6 (5): 593600.
doi:10.1586/14787210.6.5.593. PMID 18847400.
[2] Kumarasamy KK, Toleman MA, Walsh TR, Bagaria J,
Butt F, Balakrishnan R et al. (2010). Emergence of a
new antibiotic resistance mechanism in India, Pakistan,
and the UK: a molecular, biological, and epidemiological
study. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 10 (9): 597602.
doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(10)70143-2. PMC 2933358.
PMID 20705517.

[12] http://www.emea.europa.eu/pdfs/vet/mrls/081502en.
pdf; NB. Colistin base has an assigned potency of 30 000
[13] Ahmed N, Wahlgren NG (2003). In vitro interaction of colistin and rifampin on multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa". J Chemother 15 (4): 23538.
doi:10.1159/000069498. PMID 12686786.
[14] Hogg GM, Barr JG, Webb CH (1998). In-vitro activity of the combination of colistin and rifampicin
against multidrug-resistant strains of Acinetobacter baumannii". J Antimicrob Chemother 41 (4): 49495.
[15] Petrosillo N, Chinello P, Proietti MF, Cecchini L, Masala
M, Franchi C et al. (2005). Combined colistin


and rifampicin therapy for carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii infections: clinical outcome and adverse events. Clin Microbiol Infect 11 (8): 682
83. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2005.01198.x. PMID

[29] Wolinsky E, Hines JD (1962).

Neurotoxic and
nephrotoxic eects of colistin in patients with renal disease.
N Engl J Med 266 (15): 759

[16] MacGowan AP, Rynn C, Wootton M, Bowker KE, Holt

HA, Reeves DS (1999). In vitro assessment of colistins antipseudomonal antimicrobial interactions with
other antibiotics. Clin Microbiol Infect. 5: 3236.

[30] Koch-Weser J, Sidel VW, Federman EB, Kanarek P,

Finer DC, Eaton AE (1970). Adverse eects of sodium
colistimethate. Manifestations and specic reaction rates
during 317 courses of therapy. Annals of Internal
Medicine 72 (6): 85768. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-72-6857. PMID 5448745.

[17] Promixin [Summary of Product Characteristics]

[18] Colomycin Injection [Summary of Product Characteristics] http://emc.medicines.org.uk/emc/assets/c/html/
[19] http://antibiotics.toku-e.com/antimicrobial_958_2.html
[20] http://www.toku-e.com/Assets/MIC/Colistin%
[21] http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/202/10/1585.full
[22] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.
[23] New worry: Resistance to 'last antibiotic' surfaces in India. Dec 28, 2014.
[24] Emergence of Pan drug resistance amongst gram negative bacteria! The First case series from India. Dec 2014.
[25] Napier BA, Burd EM, Satola SW, Cagle SM, Ray SM,
McGann P et al. (21 May 2013). Clinical Use of
Colistin Induces Cross-Resistance to Host Antimicrobials
in Acinetobacter baumannii. MBio 4 (3): e00021
13e0002113. doi:10.1128/mBio.00021-13. PMID
[26] Markou N, Apostolakos H, Koumoudiou C, Athanasiou
M, Koutsoukou A, Alamanos I et al. (2003). Intravenous
colistin in the treatment of sepsis from multiresistant
Gram-negative bacilli in critically ill patients. Crit Care 7
(5): R7883. doi:10.1186/cc2358. PMC 270720. PMID
[27] Li J, Milne RW, Nation RL, Turnidge JD, Smeaton
TC, Coulthard K (2004). Pharmacokinetics of colistin
methanesulphonate and colistin in rats following an intravenous dose of colistin methanesulphonate. J Antimicrob
Chemother. 53 (5): 83740. doi:10.1093/jac/dkh167.
PMID 15044428.
[28] Li J, Milne RW, Nation RL, Turnidge JD, Smeaton TC,
Coulthard K (2003). Use of High-Performance Liquid
Chromatography To Study the Pharmacokinetics of Colistin Sulfate in Rats following Intravenous Administration. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 47 (5): 176670.
doi:10.1128/AAC.47.5.1766-1770.2003. PMC 153303.
PMID 12709357.

[31] Ledson MJ, Gallagher MJ, Cowperthwaite C, Convery RP, Walshaw MJ (1998).
Four years experience of intravenous colomycin in an adult cystic brosis unit. Eur Respir J 12 (3): 59294.
doi:10.1183/09031936.98.12030592. PMID 9762785.
[32] Li J, Nation RL, Milne RW, Turnidge JD, Coulthard K
(2005). Evaluation of colistin as an agent against multiresistant Gram-negative bacteria. Int J Antimicrob Agents
25 (1): 1125. doi:10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2004.10.001.
PMID 15620821.
[33] Beringer P (2001). The clinical use of colistin in patients with cystic brosis. Current Opinion in Pulmonary
Medicine 7 (6): 434440. doi:10.1097/00063198200111000-00013.
[34] Conway SP, Etherington C, Munday J, Goldman MH,
Strong JJ, Wootton M (2000). Safety and tolerability
of bolus intravenous colistin in acute respiratory exacerbation in adults with cystic brosis. Annals of Pharmacotherapy 34 (11): 123842. doi:10.1345/aph.19370.
PMID 11098334.
[35] Littlewood JM, Koch C, Lambert PA, Hiby N, Elborn JS, Conway SP et al. (2000). A ten year review of Colomycin. Respir Med 94 (7): 63240.
doi:10.1053/rmed.2000.0834. PMID 10926333.
[36] Stein A, Raoult D (2002). Colistin: an antimicrobial
for the 21st century?". Clin Infect Dis 35 (7): 9012.
doi:10.1086/342570. PMID 12228836.
[37] Maddison J, Dodd M, Webb AK (1994). Nebulized
colistin causes chest tightness in adults with cystic brosis. Respir Med. 88 (2): 145147. doi:10.1016/09546111(94)90028-0.
[38] Kamin W, Schwabe A, Krmer I (2006). Inhalation solutions: which one are allowed to be mixed?
Physico-chemical compatibility of drug solutions in
J Cyst Fibros.
5 (4): 205213.
doi:10.1016/j.jcf.2006.03.007. PMID 16678502.
[39] Domnguez-Ortega J, Manteiga E, Abad-Schilling C, Juretzcke MA, Snchez-Rubio J, Kindelan C (2007). Induced tolerance to nebulized colistin after severe reaction
to the drug. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 17 (1): 59
61. PMID 17323867.

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