Summary: The activities of polymyxin B sulphate, colistin (polymyxin E) sulphate and their sulphomethyl derivatives were compared by continuous turbidimetric monitoring of dense cultures of an strain exposed to these agents. Judged by the concentration of antibiotic which caused a rapid fall in opacity of the culture, polymyxin B sulphate and colistin sulphate had similar activities, but the sulphomethyl compounds differed considerably: sulphomyxin sodium induced lysis of the culture at a concentration four times that of the parent compound, whereas colistin sulphomethate sodium induced a delayed fall in opacity consistent with recruitment of activity as the inactive sulphomethyl derivative was broken down to the parent compound.

During overnight incubation, regrowth of cultures which had initially succumbed to polymyxin action occurred, apparently due to the selection of phenotypically resistant variants from within the population. In this way cultures could easily be adapted to growth in concentrations of antibiotic well above the conventionally-determined minimum inhibitory concentration. The comparative ease of adaptation was in the order: colistin sulphomethate > sulphomyxin > colistin sulphate > polymyxin B sulphate.


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