Liposomes as carriers for polymyxins in the treatment of cystic fibrosis lung infections

  • Stephen M. McAllister

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common autosomal recessive disorder affecting Caucasian populations. The pathophysiology of this disorder predisposes the lungs of affected patients to chronic infection, typically by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is the main cause of morbidity and mortality. Recently, attention has focused on aerosolised polymyxins, which are given prophylactically in an effort to limit infection and subsequent lung damage. This class of antimicrobial compounds is highly active against P. aeruginosa and possess the advantage that resistance rarely develops. However, the rapid lung clearance of antibiotics is a well documented phenomenon and it was postulated that polymyxin treatment could be further improved by liposomal encapsulation. As part of the development of liposomal polymyxin B, analytical methodology (radiolabelling, HPLC and protein assay) applicable to liposomal formulations was established. Liposomes were prepared by the dehydration-rehydration method and encapsulation efficiencies were determined for a number of phospholipid compositions. Vesicles were characterised with respect to size, zeta potential, morphology and release characteristics. The surface hydrophobicity of vesicles was quantified by hydrophobic interaction chromatography and it was found that this method produced comparable results to techniques conventionally used to assess this property. In vivo testing of liposomal polymyxins demonstrated that encapsulation successfully prevented the rapid pulmonary clearance of PXB. Antimicrobial activity of liposomal formulations was quantified and found to be dependent on both the vesicle surface characteristics and their release profile. Investigation of the interaction of PXB with lipopolysaccharide was undertaken and results demonstrated that PXB caused significant structural distortion of the lipid A region. This may be sufficient to abrogate the potentiating action of LPS in the inflammatory cascade.
Date of AwardOct 1995
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorH.O. Alpar (Supervisor)


  • liposomes
  • cystic fibrosis
  • pulmonary delivery
  • polymyxin B

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