The fluoroquinolones, a new class of potent orally absorbed antimicrobial agents, are reviewed, considering structure, mechanisms of action and resistance, spectrum, variables affecting activity in vitro, pharmacokinetic properties, clinical efficacy, emergence of resistance, and tolerability. The primary bacterial target is the enzyme deoxyribonucleic acid gyrase. Bacterial resistance occurs by chromosomal mutations altering deoxyribonucleic acid gyrase and decreasing drug permeation. The drugs are bactericidal and potent in vitro against members of the family Enterobacteriaceae, Haemophilus spp., and Neisseria spp., have good activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and staphylococci, and (with several exceptions) are less potent against streptococci and have fair to poor activity against anaerobic species. Potency in vitro decreases in the presence of low pH, magnesium ions, or urine but is little affected by different media, increased inoculum, or serum. The effects of the drugs in combination with a beta-lactam or aminoglycoside are often additive, occasionally synergistic, and rarely antagonistic. The agents are orally absorbed, require at most twice-daily dosing, and achieve high concentrations in urine, feces, and kidney and good concentrations in lung, bone, prostate, and other tissues. The drugs are efficacious in treatment of a variety of bacterial infections, including uncomplicated and complicated urinary tract infections, bacterial gastroenteritis, and gonorrhea, and show promise for therapy of prostatitis, respiratory tract infections, osteomyelitis, and cutaneous infections, particularly when caused by aerobic gram-negative bacilli. Fluoroquinolones have also proved to be efficacious for prophylaxis against travelers' diarrhea and infection with gram-negative bacilli in neutropenic patients. The drugs are effective in eliminating carriage of Neisseria meningitidis. Patient tolerability appears acceptable, with gastrointestinal or central nervous system toxicities occurring most commonly, but only rarely necessitating discontinuance of therapy. In 17 of 18 prospective, randomized, double-blind comparisons with another agent or placebo, fluoroquinolones were tolerated as well as or better than the comparison regimen. Bacterial resistance has been uncommonly documented but occurs, most notably with P. aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus and occasionally other species for which the therapeutic ratio is less favorable. Fluoroquinolones offer an efficacious, well-tolerated, and cost-effective alternative to parenteral therapies of selected infections.
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