Antibiotics in the Biliary Tract: A Review of the Pharmacokinetics and Clinical Outcomes of Antibiotics Penetrating the Bile and Gallbladder Wall

Abrar K Thabit
Pharmacotherapy 2020 June 2
Biliary tract infections (BTIs), including cholangitis and cholecystitis, are common causes of bacteremia. Bacteremic BTIs are associated with a mortality rate of 9-12%. The extent to which antibiotics are excreted in the bile and the ratio of their exposure to the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the infecting organism are among the important factors for the treatment of BTIs. The aim of this review is to update healthcare professionals on the distribution of antibiotics in the common bile duct, gallbladder, and gallbladder wall. Antibiotic efficacy in treating BTIs based on the latest available clinical studies is also discussed. The efficacy and pharmacokinetics of 50 antibiotics are discussed. Overall, most antibiotic classes exhibit biliary penetration that translates into clinical efficacy. Only seven antibiotics (amoxicillin, cefadroxil, cefoxitin, ertapenem, gentamicin, amikacin, and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole) had poor biliary penetration profiles. Three antibiotics (ceftibuten, ceftolozane/tazobactam, and doripenem) had positive clinical outcomes despite the lack of pharmacokinetic studies on their penetration into the biliary tract. Conflicting efficacy data were reported for ampicillin despite adequate biliary penetration, whereas conflicting pharmacokinetic data were reported with cefaclor and moxifloxacin. Even in the absence of supportive clinical studies, antibiotics with good biliary penetration profiles may have a place in BTIs treatment.

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