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Pentamidine, particularly as its diisethionate (di-2-hydroxyethanesulfonate) salt, is used to treat several infectious bacterial diseases. It has been used to treat African trypanosomiasis since 1937 and leishmaniasis since 1940. A US patent issued to British drug company May & Baker in 1946 describes its synthesis. It is usually administered by injection or inhalation.
Gram-negative bacteria, which have two sets of membranes, are difficult to control with standard antibiotics. Eric D. Brown and co-workers at McMaster University (Hamilton, ON) discovered that pentamidine can weaken the outer membrane of multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria such as Acinetobacter baumannii to allow antibiotics to penetrate the more permeable inner membrane.
This finding, if verified by clinical studies, should help decrease hospital-acquired infections caused by A. baumannii and other drug-resistant species. Because regulatory agencies consider pentamidine safe in humans, its registration for this use could be fast-tracked.
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