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Mycobactericidal activity of bedaquiline plus rifabutin or rifampin in ex vivo whole blood cultures of healthy volunteers: A randomized controlled trial.



Bedaquiline, an antimycobacterial agent approved for drug-resistant tuberculosis, is metabolized by CYP3A4, an hepatic enzyme strongly induced by rifampin, an essential part of drug-sensitive tuberculosis treatment. We examined the pharmacokinetic interactions of bedaquiline plus either rifampin or rifabutin in 33 healthy volunteers. This sub-study of that trial examined the mycobactericidal activity of these drugs against intracellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis using ex vivo whole blood culture.


Subjects were randomly assigned to receive two single 400 mg doses of bedaquiline, alone, and, after a 4 week washout period, in combination with steady-state daily dosing of either rifabutin 300 mg or rifampin 600 mg. Blood samples were collected prior to dosing and at multiple time points subsequently, to measure plasma drug concentrations and bactericidal activity in ex vivo M tuberculosis-infected whole blood cultures (WBA).


Single oral doses of bedaquiline produced readily detectable WBA ex vivo, reaching a maximal effect of -0.28 log/day, with negative values indicating bacterial killing. Plasma concentrations of 355 ng/ml were sufficient for intracellular mycobacteriostasis. Combined dosing with rifampin or rifabutin produced maximal effects of -0.91 and -0.79 log/d, respectively. However, the activity of the rifabutin combination was sustained throughout the dosing interval, thereby producing a greater cumulative or total effect. At low drug concentrations, rifabutin plus bedaquiline yielded greater mycobactericidal activity than the sum of their separate effects. Neither drug metabolites nor cellular drug accumulation could account for this observation.


The combination of rifabutin plus bedaquiline produces sustained intracellular mycobactericidal activity that is greater than the sum of their individual effects. Further studies of the treatment-shortening potential of this combination are warranted.

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