An overview of carbapenem, its resistance and therapeutic options for infections caused by carbapenem resistant bacteria

Hari P. Nepal, Rama Paudel


Carbapenems are beta-lactam drugs that have broadest spectrum of activity. They are commonly used as the drugs of last resort to treat complicated bacterial infections. They bind to penicillin binding proteins (PBPs) and inhibit cell wall synthesis in bacteria. Important members that are in clinical use include doripenem, ertapenem, imipenem, and meropenem. Unlike other members, imipenem is hydrolyzed significantly by renal dehydropeptidase; therefore, it is administered together with an inhibitor of renal dehydropeptidase, cilastatin. Carbapenems are usually administered intravenously due to their low oral bioavailability. Most common side effects of these drugs include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, and reactions at the infusion sites. Increasing resistance to these antibiotics is being reported throughout the world and is posing a threat to public health.  Primary mechanisms of carbapenem resistance include expulsion of drug and inactivation of the drug by production of carbapenemases which may not only hydrolyze carbapenem, but also cephalosporin, penicillin, and aztreonam. Resistance especially among Gram negative bacteria is of much concern since there are only limited therapeutic options available for infections caused by carbapenem resistant Gram-negative bacterial pathogens. Commonly used drugs to treat such infections include polymyxins, fosfomycin and tigecycline.


Carbapenems, Drugs of last resort, Resistance, Therapeutic options

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