The antibiotic polymyxin B exhibits novel antifungal activity against Fusarium species

The genus Fusarium comprises many species, including Fusarium oxysporum, Fusarium solani, Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium verticillioides, and causes severe infections in plants and humans. In clinical settings, Fusarium is the third most frequent mould to cause invasive fungal infections after Aspergillus and the Mucorales. F. solani and F. oxysporum are the most prevalent Fusarium spp. causing clinical disease. However, few effective antifungal drugs are available to treat human and plant Fusarium infections. The cationic peptide antibiotic polymyxin B (PMB) exhibits antifungal activity against the human fungal pathogens Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans, but its efficacy against Fusarium spp. is unknown. In this study, the antifungal activity of PMB was tested against 12 Fusarium strains that infect humans and plants (banana, tomato, melon, pea, wheat and maize). PMB was fungicidal against all 12 Fusarium strains, with minimum fungicidal concentrations of 32 µg/mL or 64 µg/mL for most strains tested, as evidenced by broth dilution, methylene blue staining and XTT reduction assays. PMB can reduce the germination rates of conidia, but not chlamydospores, and can cause defects in cell membrane integrity in Fusarium strains. PMB exhibits synergistic activity with posaconazole and can potentiate the effect of fluconazole, voriconazole or amphotericin B against Fusarium spp. However, PMB does not show synergistic effects with fluconazole against Fusarium spp. as it does against Candida glabrata and C. neoformans, indicating evolutionary divergence of mechanisms between yeast pathogens and the filamentous fungus Fusarium.

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