DOI: 10.1128/msphere.00190-23 ISSN:

A novel ruthenium-silver based antimicrobial potentiates aminoglycoside activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Gracious Yoofi Donkor, Greg M. Anderson, Michael Stadler, Patrick Ofori Tawiah, Carl D. Orellano, Kevin A. Edwards, Jan-Ulrik Dahl
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


The rapid dissemination of antibiotic resistance combined with the decline in the discovery of novel antibiotics represents a major challenge for infectious disease control that can only be mitigated by investments in novel treatment strategies. Alternative antimicrobials, including silver, have regained interest due to their diverse mechanisms of inhibiting microbial growth. One such example is AGXX, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial that produces highly cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) to inflict extensive macromolecular damage. Due to the connections identified between ROS production and antibiotic lethality, we hypothesized that AGXX could potentially increase the activity of conventional antibiotics. Using the gram-negative pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa , we screened possible synergistic effects of AGXX on several antibiotic classes. We found that the combination of AGXX and aminoglycosides tested at sublethal concentrations led to a rapid exponential decrease in bacterial survival and restored the sensitivity of a kanamycin-resistant strain. ROS production contributes significantly to the bactericidal effects of AGXX/aminoglycoside treatments, which is dependent on oxygen availability and can be reduced by the addition of ROS scavengers. Additionally, P. aeruginosa strains deficient in ROS detoxifying/repair genes were more susceptible to AGXX/aminoglycoside treatment. We further demonstrate that this synergistic interaction was associated with a significant increase in outer and inner membrane permeability, resulting in increased antibiotic influx. Our study also revealed that AGXX/aminoglycoside-mediated killing requires an active proton motive force across the bacterial membrane. Overall, our findings provide an understanding of cellular targets that could be inhibited to increase the activity of conventional antimicrobials.


The emergence of drug-resistant bacteria coupled with the decline in antibiotic development highlights the need for novel alternatives. Thus, new strategies aimed at repurposing conventional antibiotics have gained significant interest. The necessity of these interventions is evident especially in gram-negative pathogens as they are particularly difficult to treat due to their outer membrane. This study highlights the effectiveness of the antimicrobial AGXX in potentiating aminoglycoside activities against P. aeruginosa . The combination of AGXX and aminoglycosides not only reduces bacterial survival rapidly but also significantly re-sensitizes aminoglycoside-resistant P. aeruginosa strains. In combination with gentamicin, AGXX induces increased endogenous oxidative stress, membrane damage, and iron-sulfur cluster disruption. These findings emphasize AGXX’s potential as a route of antibiotic adjuvant development and shed light on potential targets to enhance aminoglycoside activity.

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