The postantibiotic effect of the carbapenem antibiotics on gram-negative bacteria

  • Fiona J. Boswell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Postantibiotic effect (PAE) describes the suppression of microbial growth occurring after a short exposure to an antimicrobial agent. PAE appears to be a property of the majority of antimicrobial agents and is demonstrated by a wide variety of microorganisms. At present, carbapenems and penems are the only members of the -lactam group of antimicrobial agents that exhibit a significant PAE on Gram-negative bacilli.
A standardised method was developed to evaluate the in vitro PAE of three carbapenems; imipenem, meropenem and biapenem on Gram-negative bacteria under reproducible laboratory conditions that partially mimicked those occurring in vivo. The effects on carbapenem PAE of the method of antimicrobial removal, concentration, exposure duration, inoculum size, inoculum growth phase, multiple exposures and pooled human serum were determined. Additionally, the reproducibility, susceptibility prior to and after PAE determination and inter-strain variation of carbapenem PAE were evaluated. The method developed determined PAE by utilising viable counts and demonstrated carbapenem PAE to be reproducible, constant over successive exposures, dependent on genera, concentration, duration of exposure, inoculum size and growth phase. In addition, carbapenem PAE was not significantly effected either by agitation, the antimicrobial removal method or the viable count diluent.
At present, the mechanism underlying PAE is undetermined. It is thought to be due to either the prolonged persistence of the antimicrobial at the cellular site of action or the true recovery period from non-lethal damage. Increasing the L-lysine concentration and salinity at recovery decreased and increased the carbapenem and imipenem PAE of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, respectively. In addition, no apparent change was observed in the production of virulence factors by P.aeruginosa in PAE phase. However, alterations in cell morphology were observed throughout PAE phase, and the reappearance of normal cell morphology corresponded to the duration of PAE determined by viable count. Thus, the recovery of the penicillin binding protein target enzymes appears to be the mechanism behind carbapenem PAE in P. aeruginosa.
Date of AwardSept 1998
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter Lambert (Supervisor)


  • imipenem
  • meropenem
  • biapenem
  • psedomonas aeruginosa
  • escherichia coli

Cite this