Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. David Burgess


Background: Infections caused by carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae are among the most urgent threats of the infectious disease realm. The incidence of these infections has been increasing over the years and due to very limited treatment options, mortality is estimated at about 50%. By 2050, mortality from antimicrobial resistant infections is expected to surpass cancer at 10 million deaths annually.

Methods: We evaluated 18 contemporary antimicrobials against 122 carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae using a variety of antimicrobial susceptibility testing methods according to Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute guidelines. Time-kill studies were performed on clinical isolates with variable resistance to meropenem, amikacin, and polymyxin B. Phenotypic expression assays were performed on all isolates and whole genome sequencing was performed on 8 isolates to characterize molecular resistance mechanisms. Pharmacodynamic modeling of meropenem and polymyxin B was also conducted.

Results: CRE were primarily K. pneumoniae, and Enterobacter spp. 60% expressed Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC) only, 16% expressed Verona Integron-encoded Metallo-beta-lactamase (VIM) only, 5% expressed KPC and VIM, and 20% expressed other mechanisms of resistance. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing indicated the most active antimicrobials against CRE were ceftazidime/avibactam, imipenem/relebactam, amikacin, tigecycline, and the polymyxins. Etest® strips did not reliably measure polymyxin B resistance. The automated testing system, BD Phoenix™, consistently reported lower MICs than the gold standard broth microdilution. Time-kill studies showed regrowth at clinically achievable concentrations of meropenem alone (4, 16, and 64 mg/L), polymyxin B alone (0.25 and 1 mg/L), or amikacin alone (8 and 16 mg/L), but combinations of meropenem with either polymyxin B or amikacin were bactericidal and synergistic. Meropenem administered simultaneously or prior to polymyxin B exhibited superior activity to polymyxin B administered first.

Conclusions: Novel carbapenemase-inhibitor combinations (ceftazidime/avibactam and imipenem/relebactam) exhibit the best activity against KPC-producing CRE. The polymyxins, amikacin, and tigecycline exhibit the best activity against VIM-producing CRE. Meropenem in combination with polymyxin B is bactericidal and synergistic when the meropenem MIC is ≤32 mg/L, and meropenem should never be administered after polymyxin B. Meropenem and amikacin is bactericidal and synergistic when the amikacin MIC is ≤16 mg/L. Etest® strips should not be used for characterizing polymyxin B or colistin activity. Clinicians should be aware that automated testing systems may produce biased susceptibility results relative to the gold standard method, broth microdilution, which may influence interpretation of in vitro results.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research was supported in part by an investigator-initiated research grant provided by Merck & Co., Inc (MISP grant #56367).