Measurement of tissue azithromycin levels in self-collected vaginal swabs post treatment using liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)

Lenka A. Vodstrcil, Thusitha W T Rupasinghe, Fabian Yuh Shiong Kong, Dedreia Tull, Karen Worthington, Marcus Y. Chen, Wilhelmina M Huston, Peter Timms, Malcolm J McConville, Christopher K. Fairley, Catriona S. Bradshaw, Sepehr N Tabrizi, Jane Simone Hocking

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Background Azithromycin is recommended for the treatment of uncomplicated urogenital chlamydia infection although the standard 1gram dose sometimes fails to eradicate the infection (treatment failure). One hypothesis proposed for treatment failure has been insufficient levels of the antibiotic at the site of infection. We developed an assay using liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to measure azithromycin concentration in high-vaginal swabs and monitor how concentration changes over time following routine azithromycin treatment. Methods Azithromycin concentrations were measured in two groups of women either within the first 24h of taking a 1g dose (N = 11) or over 9 days (N = 10). Azithromycin concentrations were normalised to an internal standard (leucine enkephalin), and the bulk lipid species phosphatidylcholine [PC(34:1)], using an Agilent 6490 triple quadrupole instrument in positive ionisation mode. The abundances of azithromycin, PC(34:1), and leu-enkephalin were determined by multiple reaction monitoring and absolute levels of azithromycin estimated using standard curves prepared on vaginal specimens. Results Vaginal azithromycin concentrations of women were rapidly obtained after 5h post-treatment (mean concentration = 1031mcg/mg of lipid, range = 173-2693mcg/mg). In women followed for 9 days, peak concentrations were highest after day 2 (mean concentration = 2206mcg/mg, range = 721-5791mcg/mg), and remained high for at least 9 days with a mean concentration of 384mcg/mg (range = 139-1024mcg/mg) on day 9. Conclusion Our study confirmed that a single 1g dose of azithromycin is rapidly absorbed and remains in the vagina at relatively high levels for at least a week, suggesting that poor antibiotic absorption is unlikely to be an explanation for treatment failure.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0177615
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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