Tuberculous meningitis is a very serious form of tuberculosis. In the absence of randomized controlled trials of alternative treatment regimens, its management depends on employing potent drugs that penetrate well into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The penetration of isoniazid, rifampin, and streptomycin into the CSF of 27 Chinese patients was studied using fluorimetric and microbiologic procedures. Isoniazid rapidly diffused into the CSF, peak concentrations in excess of 3 mg/L, or over 30 times its minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) against Mycobacterium tuberculosis being attained within 4 hr. In contrast, rifampin and streptomycin penetrated very slowly across the meninges, and CSF levels only slightly in excess of their MICs against M. tuberculosis were achieved. The penetration of the drugs into the CSF correlated poorly with differences in their partitioning between octanol/water and cyclohexane/water but could be predicted using a simple model based on their renal clearance rates and plasma protein binding. It is recommended that patients with tuberculous meningitis should be treated for at least 9 months with a combination of isoniazid, rifampin, and pyrazinamide, which may be supplemented in the first 2 mo with streptomycin.
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