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High-dose rifamycins enable shorter oral treatment in a murine model of Mycobacterium ulcerans disease

By Till F. Omansen, Deepak Almeida, Paul J Converse, Si-Yang Li, Jin Lee, Ymkje Stienstra, Tjip van der Werf, Jacques H Grosset, Eric L Nuermberger

Posted 19 Aug 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/395095 (published DOI: 10.1128/aac.01478-18)

Buruli ulcer (BU), caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans, is a neglected tropical skin and soft tissue infection that is associated with disability and social stigma. The mainstay of BU treatment is an eight-week course of 10 mg/kg rifampin (RIF) and 150 mg/kg streptomycin (STR). Recently, the injectable STR has been shown to be replaceable with oral clarithromycin (CLR) for smaller lesions for the last four weeks of treatment. A shorter, all-oral, highly efficient regimen for BU is needed, as the long treatment duration and indirect costs currently burden patients and health systems. Increasing the dose of RIF or replacing it with the more potent rifamycin drug rifapentine (RPT) could provide such a regimen. Here, we performed a dose-ranging experiment of RIF and RPT in combination with CLR over four weeks of treatment in a mouse model of M. ulcerans disease. A clear dose-dependent effect of RIF on both clinical and microbiological outcomes was found, with no ceiling effect observed with tested doses up to 40 mg/kg. RPT-containing regimens were more effective on M. ulcerans. All RPT-containing regimens achieved culture negativity after only four weeks while only the regimen with the highest RIF dose (40 mg/kg) did so. We conclude that there is dose-dependent efficacy of both RIF and RPT and that a ceiling effect is not reached with the current standard regimen used in the clinic. A regimen based on higher rifamycin doses that are currently being evaluated against tuberculosis in clinical trials could shorten and improve therapy of Buruli ulcer.

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