A major antimicrobial resistance mechanism in Gram-negative bacteria is the production of β-lactamase enzymes. The increasing emergence of β-lactamase-producing multi-drug-resistant “superbugs” has resulted in increases in costly hospital Emergency Department (ED) visits and hospitalizations due to the requirement for parenteral antibiotic therapy for infections caused by these difficult-to-treat bacteria. To address the lack of outpatient treatment, we initiated an iterative program combining medicinal chemistry, biochemical testing, microbiological profiling, and evaluation of oral pharmacokinetics. Lead optimization focusing on multiple smaller, more lipophilic active compounds, followed by an exploration of oral bioavailability of a variety of their respective prodrugs, provided 36 (VNRX-7145/VNRX-5236 etzadroxil), the prodrug of the boronic acid-containing β-lactamase inhibitor 5 (VNRX-5236). In vitro and in vivo studies demonstrated that 5 restored the activity of the oral cephalosporin antibiotic ceftibuten against Enterobacterales expressing Ambler class A extended-spectrum β-lactamases, class A carbapenemases, class C cephalosporinases, and class D oxacillinases.
There is an urgent need for oral agents to combat resistant gram-negative pathogens. Here we describe the characterization of VNRX-5236, a broad-spectrum boronic acid β-lactamase inhibitor (BLI) and its orally bioavailable etzadroxil prodrug, VNRX-7145. VNRX-7145 is being developed in combination with ceftibuten, an oral cephalosporin, to combat strains of Enterobacterales expressing extended spectrum β-lactamases (ESBLs) and serine carbapenemases. VNRX-5236 is a reversible covalent inhibitor of serine β-lactamases, with inactivation efficiencies on the order of 104 M−1. sec−1, and prolonged active site residence times (t1/2, 5 to 46 min). The spectrum of inhibition includes Ambler class A ESBLs, class C cephalosporinases, and class A and D carbapenemases (KPC and OXA-48, respectively). Rescue of ceftibuten by VNRX-5236 (fixed at 4 μg/mL) in isogenic strains of E. coli expressing class A, C or D β-lactamases demonstrated an expanded spectrum of activity relative to oral comparators including investigational penems, sulopenem and tebipenem. VNRX-5236 rescued ceftibuten activity in clinical isolates of Enterobacterales expressing ESBLs (MIC90 = 0.25 μg/mL), KPCs (MIC90 = 1 μg/mL), class C cephalosporinases (MIC90 = 1 μg/mL) and OXA-48-type carbapenemases (MIC90 = 1 μg/mL). Frequency of resistance studies demonstrated a low propensity for recovery of resistant variants at 4× the MIC of the ceftibuten/VNRX-5236 combination. In vivo, whereas ceftibuten alone was ineffective (ED50, >128 mg/kg), ceftibuten/VNRX-7145 administered orally protected mice from lethal septicemia caused by K. pneumoniae producing KPC carbapenemase (ED50, 12.9 mg/kg). The data demonstrate potent, broad-spectrum rescue of ceftibuten activity by VNRX-5236 in clinical isolates of cephalosporin-resistant and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales.
Efforts to develop and pair novel oral β-lactamase inhibitors with existing β-lactam agents to treat extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) and carbapenemase-producing Enterobacterales are gaining ground. Ceftibuten is an oral third-generation cephalosporin capable of achieving high urine concentrations; however, there are no robust data describing its pharmacodynamic profile. This study characterizes ceftibuten pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in a neutropenic murine thigh infection model. Enterobacterales isolates expressing no known clinically-relevant enzymatic resistance (n = 7) or harboring an ESBL (n = 2) were evaluated. The ceftibuten minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) were 0.03–4 mg/L. Nine ceftibuten regimens, including a human-simulated regimen (HSR) equivalent to clinical ceftibuten doses of 300 mg taken orally every 8 h, were utilized to achieve various fT > MICs. A sigmoidal Emax model was fitted to fT > MIC vs. change in log10 CFU/thigh to determine the requirements for net stasis and 1-log10 CFU/thigh bacterial burden reduction. The growth of the 0 h and 24 h control groups was 5.97 ± 0.37 and 8.51 ± 0.84 log10 CFU/thigh, respectively. Ceftibuten HSR resulted in a -0.49 to -1.43 log10 CFU/thigh bacterial burden reduction at 24 h across the isolates. Stasis and 1-log10 CFU/thigh reduction were achieved with a fT > MIC of 39% and 67%, respectively. The fT > MIC targets identified can be used to guide ceftibuten dosage selection to optimize the likelihood of clinical efficacy.
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