Background. Linezolid is recommended for treatment of pneumonia and other invasive infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The premise underlying this recommendation is that linezolid inhibits in vivo production of potent staphylococcal exotoxins, including Panton-Valentine leukocidin (PVL) and α-hemolysin (Hla), although supporting evidence is lacking.
Methods. A rabbit model of necrotizing pneumonia using MRSA clone USA300 was used to compare therapeutic effects of linezolid (50 mg/kg 3 times/day) and vancomycin (30 mg/kg 2 times/day) administered 1.5, 4, and 9 hours after infection on host survival outcomes and in vivo bacterial toxin production.
Results. Mortality rates were 100% for untreated rabbits and 83%–100% for vancomycin-treated rabbits. In contrast, mortality rates were 25%, 50%, and 100% for rabbits treated with linezolid 1.5, 4, and 9 hours after infection, respectively. Compared with untreated and vancomycin-treated rabbits, improved survival of rabbits treated 1.5 hours after infection with linezolid was associated with a significant decrease in bacterial counts, suppressed bacterial production of PVL and Hla, and reduced production of the neutrophil-chemoattractant interleukin 8 in the lungs.
Conclusions. Across the study interval, only early treatment with linezolid resulted in significant suppression of exotoxin synthesis and improved survival outcomes in a rabbit model of MRSA necrotizing pneumonia.