Systematic review of the evidence for rational dosing of colistin

E Visser Kift, G Maaartens, C Bamford


Background. There is an alarming global increase in the incidence of nosocomial infections with multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, which are often only susceptible to colistin. Colistin was developed prior to current methods of establishing dosing using pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationships. Dosing regimens differ in package inserts from different manufacturers and in different guidelines. It is imperative to avoid under-dosing with colistin in order to limit the development of resistance, as it is the last line of defence. 

Methods. We conducted a systematic review of the literature to develop guidelines for rational dosing of intravenous colistin, with a particular focus on critically ill patients. 

Results. Colistin is administered as the inactive pro-drug colistimethate sodium. Colistin demonstrates concentration-dependent bacterial killing, suggesting that higher doses should be administered less frequently to achieve higher peak concentrations. Dose-related nephrotoxicity occurs, making it impossible to safely achieve concentrations that prevent the selection of resistant mutants or the effective eradication of bacteria with higher minimum inhibitory concentrations. Theoretically, combination therapy should be used to reduce the risk of selection of resistant bacteria. In critically ill patients, a loading dose should be given to rapidly achieve therapeutic concentrations, followed by maintenance doses of 4.5 MU 12-hourly. Maintenance dose adjustment is necessary with renal impairment. 

Conclusion. Easier access to colistin is needed in South Africa, where it is not a registered medicine. Further research is needed to better characterise colistin’s pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationships in humans and to establish whether combinations of colistin with other antimicrobials result in improved clinical outcomes or a reduction in selection of resistant bacteria.

Authors' affiliations

E Visser Kift, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa

G Maaartens, Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa

C Bamford, Division of Medical Microbiology, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Cape Town, and National Health Laboratory Service, Groote Schuur Hospital, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(3):183-186. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.10727

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-03-01
Date published: 2016-03-01

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