Azithromycin (Page 5 of 6)

12.4 Microbiology

Mechanism of Action

Azithromycin acts by binding to the 23S rRNA of the 50S ribosomal subunit of susceptible microorganisms inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis and impeding the assembly of the 50S ribosomal subunit.


Azithromycin demonstrates cross-resistance with erythromycin. The most frequently encountered mechanism of resistance to azithromycin is modification of the 23S rRNA target, most often by methylation. Ribosomal modifications can determine cross resistance to other macrolides, lincosamides and streptogramin B (MLSB phenotype).

Antimicrobial Activity

Azithromycin has been shown to be active against the following microorganisms, both in vitro and in clinical infections [see Indications and Usage ( 1)].

Gram-positive Bacteria
Staphylococcus aureus
Streptococcus pneumoniae

Gram-negative Bacteria
Haemophilus influenzae
Moraxella catarrhalis
Neisseria gonorrhoeae
Legionella pneumophila

Other Bacteria
Chlamydophila pneumoniae
Chlamydia trachomatis
Mycoplasma hominis
Mycoplasma pneumoniae

The following in vitro data are available, but their clinical significance is unknown. At least 90 percent of the following bacteria exhibit an in vitro minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) less than or equal to the susceptible breakpoint for azithromycin against isolates of similar genus or organism group. However, the efficacy of azithromycin in treating clinical infections caused by these bacteria have not been established in adequate and well-controlled clinical trials.

Aerobic Gram-Positive Bacteria
Streptococci (Groups C, F, G)
Viridans group streptococci

Gram-Negative Bacteria
Bordetella pertussis

Anaerobic Bacteria
Peptostreptococcus species
Prevotella bivia

Other Bacteria Ureaplasma urealyticum

Susceptibility Testing

For specific information regarding susceptibility test interpretive criteria and associated test methods and quality control standards recognized by FDA for this drug, please see:


13.1 Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

Long-term studies in animals have not been performed to evaluate carcinogenic potential. Azithromycin has shown no mutagenic potential in standard laboratory tests: mouse lymphoma assay, human lymphocyte clastogenic assay, and mouse bone marrow clastogenic assay. In fertility studies conducted in male and female rats, oral administration of azithromycin for 64 to 66 days (males) or 15 days (females) prior to and during cohabitation resulted in decreased pregnancy rate at 20 and 30 mg/kg/day when both males and females were treated with azithromycin. This minimal effect on pregnancy rate (approximately 12% reduction compared to concurrent controls) did not become more pronounced when the dose was increased from 20 to 30 mg/kg/day (approximately 0.4 to 0.6 times the adult daily dose of 500 mg based on body surface area) and it was not observed when only one animal in the mated pair was treated. There were no effects on any other reproductive parameters, and there were no effects on fertility at 10 mg/kg/day. The relevance of these findings to patients being treated with azithromycin at the doses and durations recommended in the prescribing information is uncertain.

13.2 Animal Toxicology and/or Pharmacology

Phospholipidosis (intracellular phospholipid accumulation) has been observed in some tissues of mice, rats, and dogs given multiple oral doses of azithromycin. It has been demonstrated in numerous organ systems (e.g., eye, dorsal root ganglia, liver, gallbladder, kidney, spleen, and/or pancreas) in dogs and rats treated with azithromycin at doses which, expressed on the basis of body surface area, are similar to or less than the highest recommended adult human dose. This effect has been shown to be reversible after cessation of azithromycin treatment. Based on the pharmacokinetic data, phospholipidosis has been seen in the rat (50 mg/kg/day dose) at the observed maximal plasma concentration of 1.3 mcg/mL (1.6 times the observed C max of 0.821 mcg/mL at the adult dose of 2 g). Similarly, it has been shown in the dog (10 mg/kg/day dose) at the observed maximal serum concentration of 1 mcg/mL (1.2 times the observed C max of 0.821 mcg/mL at the adult dose of 2 g).

Phospholipidosis was also observed in neonatal rats dosed for 18 days at 30 mg/kg/day, which is less than the pediatric dose of 60 mg/kg based on body surface area. It was not observed in neonatal rats treated for 10 days at 40 mg/kg/day with mean maximal serum concentrations of 1.86 mcg/mL, approximately 1.5 times the C max of 1.27 mcg/mL at the pediatric dose. Phospholipidosis has been observed in neonatal dogs (10 mg/kg/day) at maximum mean whole blood concentrations of 3.54 mcg/mL, approximately 3 times the pediatric dose C max . The significance of the findings for animals and for humans is unknown.


14.1 Community-Acquired Pneumonia

In a controlled trial of community-acquired pneumonia performed in the U.S., azithromycin (500 mg as a single daily dose by the intravenous route for 2 to 5 days, followed by 500 mg/day by the oral route to complete 7 to 10 days therapy) was compared to cefuroxime (2,250 mg/day in three divided doses by the intravenous route for 2 to 5 days followed by 1,000 mg/day in two divided doses by the oral route to complete 7 to 10 days therapy), with or without erythromycin. For the 291 patients who were evaluable for clinical efficacy, the clinical outcome rates, i.e., cure, improved, and success (cure + improved) among the 277 patients seen at 10 to 14 days post-therapy were as follows:

Clinical Outcome Azithromycin Comparator
Cure 46% 44%
Improved 32% 30%
Success (Cure + Improved) 78% 74%

In a separate, uncontrolled clinical and microbiological trial performed in the U.S., 94 patients with community-acquired pneumonia who received azithromycin in the same regimen were evaluable for clinical efficacy. The clinical outcome rates, i.e., cure, improved, and success (cure + improved) among the 84 patients seen at 10 to 14 days post-therapy were as follows:

Clinical Outcome Azithromycin
Cure 60%
Improved 29%
Success (Cure + Improved) 89%

Microbiological determinations in both trials were made at the pre-treatment visit and, where applicable, were reassessed at later visits. Serological testing was done on baseline and final visit specimens. The following combined presumptive bacteriological eradication rates were obtained from the evaluable groups:

Combined Bacteriological Eradication Rates for Azithromycin:

a Nineteen of twenty-four patients (79%) with positive blood cultures for S. pneumoniae were cured (intent-to-treat analysis) with eradication of the pathogen.

(at last completed visit) Azithromycin
S. pneumoniae 64/67 (96%) a
H. influenzae 41/43 (95%)
M. catarrhalis 9/10 (90%)
S. aureus 9/10 (90%)

The presumed bacteriological outcomes at 10 to 14 days post-therapy for patients treated with azithromycin with evidence (serology and/or culture) of atypical pathogens for both trials were as follows:

Evidence of Infection Total Cure Improved Cure + Improved
Mycoplasma pneumoniae 18 11 (61%) 5 (28%) 16 (89%)
Chlamydia pneumoniae 34 15 (44%) 13 (38%) 28 (82%)
Legionella pneumophila 16 5 (31%) 8 (50%) 13 (81%)

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