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Besifloxacin is a new fluoroquinolone in development for ocular use. We investigated its mode of action and resistance in two major ocular pathogens, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus, and in the reference species Escherichia coli.Primary and secondary targets of besifloxacin were evaluated by: (i) mutant selection experiments; (ii) MIC testing of defined topoisomerase mutants; and (iii) inhibition and cleavable complex assays with purified S. pneumoniae and E. coli DNA gyrase and topoisomerase IV enzymes.Enzyme assays showed similar besifloxacin activity against S. pneumoniae gyrase and topoisomerase IV, with IC50 and CC25 of 2.5 and 1 µM, respectively. In contrast to ciprofloxacin and moxifloxacin, besifloxacin was equally potent against both S. pneumoniae and E. coli gyrases. DNA gyrase was the primary target in all three species, with substitutions observed at positions 81, 83 and 87 in GyrA and 426 and 466 in GyrB (E. coli numbering). Topoisomerase IV was the secondary target. Notably, resistant mutants were not recovered at 4-fold besifloxacin MICs for S. aureus and S. pneumoniae, and S. aureus topoisomerase mutants were only obtained after serial passage in liquid medium. Besifloxacin MICs were similarly affected by parC or gyrA mutations in S. aureus and S. pneumoniae and remained below 1 mg/L in gyrA–parC double mutants.Although mutant selection experiments indicated that gyrase is a primary target, further biochemical and genetic studies showed that besifloxacin has potent, relatively balanced activity against both essential DNA gyrase and topoisomerase IV targets in S. aureus and S. pneumoniae.