Hypothesis: The hypothesis that metronidazole can augment the ototoxicity o
f gentamicin was tested.
ackground: Metronidazole and gentamicin are antibiotics that are used in co
mbination to provide broad-spectrum antimicrobial coverage. It has been obs
erved clinically that an increased ototoxic effect occurs when these agents
are used in combination.
Methods: Groups of guinea pigs were given various doses of gentamicin alone
, various doses of gentamicin in combination with metronidazole, or metroni
dazole alone. Auditory damage was determined electrophysiologically by meas
urement of the compound action potential. Hair cell damage was quantified b
y immunofluorescent microscopy.
Results: Electrophysiologic data revealed an augmented ototoxic effect when
metronidazole was given with both a moderate and a high dose of gentamicin
. Thresholds (dB SPLp) for the compound action potential(N1) for animals re
ceiving a medium dose of gentamicin alone (50 mg/kg) were approxi50-dB SPLp
when metronidazole (35 mg/kg) was administered along with the medium-dose
gentamicin. Additionally, animals receiving high-dose gentamicin (75 mg/kg)
alone demonstrated increased NI thresholds from 85 to 95 when metronidazol
e (35 mg/kg) was added to the gentamicin regimen. This effect was evident h
istopathologically by increased cochlear hair cell damage. Outer hair cell
loss for animals receiving medium-dose gentamicin alone did not differ from
that of controls. When metronidazole (35 mg/kg) was combined, however, out
er hair cell loss increased to approximately 50%.
Conclusions: These data support the clinical observation of augmented ototo
xicity in patients receiving combined gentamicin and metronidazole. Caution
should be used when administering these two agents together. Clinicians sh
ould consider other antibiotic strategies whenever possible.