Curcumin, an antibiotic resistance breaker against a multiresistant clinical isolate of Mycobacterium abscessus

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Curcumin, a phenolic compound extracted from Curcuma longa, exerts multiple pharmacological effects, including an antimicrobial action. Mycobacterium abscessus, an environmental, nontuberculous, rapidly growing mycobacterium, is an emerging human pathogen causing serious lung infections and one of the most difficult to treat, due to its multidrug resistance and biofilm-forming ability. We wanted to evaluate the antimicrobial and antivirulence activity of curcumin and its ability to synergize with antibiotics against a clinical M. abscessus strain (29904), isolated from the bronchoaspirate of a 66-year-old woman admitted to hospital for suspected tuberculosis. Curcumin [minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) = 128 mg/L] was synergic (fractional inhibitory concentration index ≤0.5) with amikacin, clarithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and linezolid, to which strain 29904 showed resistance/intermediate susceptibility. Curcumin at 1/8 × MIC significantly reduced motility, whereas at 4 × MIC, it completely inhibited 4- and 8-day mature biofilms. Synergistic combinations of curcumin and amikacin induced a general reduction in microbial aggregates and substantial loss in cell viability. Disruption of 4- and 8-day biofilms was the main effect detected when curcumin was the predominant compound. The present findings support previous evidence that curcumin is a potential antibiotic resistance breaker. Curcumin, either alone or combined with antibiotics, could provide a novel strategy to combat antibiotic resistance and virulence of M. abscessus.

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