Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2022 Mar 7:e0227421. doi: 10.1128/aac.02274-21. Online ahead of print.
Aspergillus terreus is an opportunistic causative agent of invasive aspergillosis and, in most cases, it is refractory to amphotericin B (AMB) therapy. Notably, AMB-susceptible Aspergillus terreus sensu stricto (s.s.) representatives exist which are also associated with poor clinical outcomes. Such findings may be attributable to drug tolerance, which is not detectable by antifungal susceptibility testing. Here, we tested in vitro antifungal susceptibility (AFST) and the fungicidal activity of AMB against 100 clinical isolates of A. terreus species complex in RPMI 1640 and antibiotic medium 3 (AM3). MICs ranged from 0.5 to 16 μg/mL for RPMI 1640 and from 1 to >16 mg/L for AM3. AMB showed medium-dependent activity, with fungicidal effects only in antibiotic medium 3, not in RPMI 1640. Furthermore, the presence of AMB-tolerant phenotypes of A. terreus has been examined by assessing the minimum duration for killing 99% of the population (MDK99) and evaluating the data obtained in a Galleria mellonella infection model. A time-kill curve analysis revealed that A. terreus with AMB MICs of ≤1 mg/L (susceptible range) displayed AMB-tolerant phenotypes, exhibiting MDK99s at 18 and 36 h, respectively. Survival rates of infected G. mellonella highlighted that AMB was effective against susceptible A. terreus isolates, but not against tolerant or resistant isolates. Our analysis reveals that A. terreus isolates which are defined as susceptible based on MIC may comprise tolerant phenotypes, which may, in turn, explain the worse outcome of AMB therapy for phenotypically susceptible isolates.