[Do different interpretative methods used for evaluation of checkerboard synergy test affect the results?]

Ayşe Gül Ozseven, Emel Sesli Çetin, Levent Ozseven
Mikrobiyoloji Bülteni 2012, 46 (3): 410-20
In recent years, owing to the presence of multi-drug resistant nosocomial bacteria, combination therapies are more frequently applied. Thus there is more need to investigate the in vitro activity of drug combinations against multi-drug resistant bacteria. Checkerboard synergy testing is among the most widely used standard technique to determine the activity of antibiotic combinations. It is based on microdilution susceptibility testing of antibiotic combinations. Although this test has a standardised procedure, there are many different methods for interpreting the results. In many previous studies carried out with multi-drug resistant bacteria, different rates of synergy have been reported with various antibiotic combinations using checkerboard technique. These differences might be attributed to the different features of the strains. However, different synergy rates detected by checkerboard method have also been reported in other studies using the same drug combinations and same types of bacteria. It was thought that these differences in synergy rates might be due to the different methods of interpretation of synergy test results. In recent years, multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii has been the most commonly encountered nosocomial pathogen especially in intensive-care units. For this reason, multidrug resistant A.baumannii has been the subject of a considerable amount of research about antimicrobial combinations. In the present study, the in vitro activities of frequently preferred combinations in A.baumannii infections like imipenem plus ampicillin/sulbactam, and meropenem plus ampicillin/sulbactam were tested by checkerboard synergy method against 34 multi-drug resistant A.baumannii isolates. Minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values for imipenem, meropenem and ampicillin/sulbactam were determined by the broth microdilution method. Subsequently the activity of two different combinations were tested in the dilution range of 4 x MIC and 0.03 x MIC in 96-well checkerboard plates. The results were obtained separately using the four different interpretation methods frequently preferred by researchers. Thus, it was aimed to detect to what extent the rates of synergistic, indifferent and antagonistic interactions were affected by different interpretation methods. The differences between the interpretation methods were tested by chi-square analysis for each combination used. Statistically significant differences were detected between the four different interpretation methods for the determination of synergistic and indifferent interactions (p< 0.0001). Highest rates of synergy were observed with both combinations by the method that used the lowest fractional inhibitory concentration index of all the non-turbid wells along the turbidity/non-turbidity interface. There was no statistically significant difference between the four methods for the detection of antagonism (p> 0.05). In conclusion although there is a standard procedure for checkerboard synergy testing it fails to exhibit standard results owing to different methods of interpretation of the results. Thus, there is a need to standardise the interpretation method for checkerboard synergy testing. To determine the most appropriate method of interpretation further studies investigating the clinical benefits of synergic combinations and additionally comparing the consistency of the results obtained from the other standard combination tests like time-kill studies, are required.

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