Summary: Polymyxin B and the non-ionic surfactant polysorbate 80 acted synergistically against with respect to leakage, death and lysis. Polysorbate 80 alone was non-toxic. The enhancement of polymyxin occurred throughout the polysorbate concentration range (0.0001 to 0.250%, v/v). No sudden change in the pattern of enhancement occurred near the critical micelle concentration of polysorbate. The onset of action of polysorbate was prompt, implying a direct physical effect on the bacteria. Exposure of bacteria to this surfactant did not cause an increase in uptake of polymyxin. It is proposed that polysorbate 80 alters the outer lipid structure of the envelope of allowing easier access of polymyxin to the underlying membrane.


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