FLUCONAZOLE (Page 4 of 12)

Susceptibility Testing Methods

Cryptococcus neoformans and filamentous fungi

No interpretive criteria have been established for Cryptococcus neoformans and filamentous fungi.

Candida species

Broth Dilution Techniques: Quantitative methods are used to determine antifungal minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs). These MICs provide estimates of the susceptibility of Candida spp. to antifungal agents. MICs should be determined using a standardized procedure. Standardized procedures are based on a dilution method (broth)1 with standardized inoculum concentrations of fluconazole powder. The MIC values should be interpreted according to the criteria provided in Table 1.

Diffusion Techniques: Qualitative methods that require measurement of zone diameters also provide reproducible estimates of the susceptibility of Candida spp. to an antifungal agent. One such standardized procedure2 requires the use of standardized inoculum concentrations. This procedure uses paper disks impregnated with 25 mcg of fluconazole to test the susceptibility of yeasts to fluconazole. Disk diffusion interpretive criteria are also provided in Table 1.

Table 1: Susceptibility Interpretive Criteria for Fluconazole

Broth Dilution at 48 hours

Disk Diffusion at 24 hours

Antifungal agent Susceptible (S) Intermediate (I)** Resistant (R) Susceptible (S) Intermediate (I)** Resistant (R)
Fluconazole* ≤ 8 16 to 32 ≥ 64 ≥ 19 15 to 18 ≤ 14

* Isolates of C. krusei are assumed to be intrinsically resistant to fluconazole and their MICs and/or zone diameters should not be interpreted using this scale.

** The intermediate category is sometimes called Susceptible-Dose Dependent (SDD) and both categories are equivalent for fluconazole.

The susceptible category implies that isolates are inhibited by the usually achievable concentrations of antifungal agent tested when the recommended dosage is used. The intermediate category implies that an infection due to the isolate may be appropriately treated in body sites where the drugs are physiologically concentrated or when a high dosage of drug is used. The resistant category implies that isolates are not inhibited by the usually achievable concentrations of the agent with normal dosage schedules and clinical efficacy of the agent against the isolate has not been reliably shown in treatment studies.

Quality Control

Standardized susceptibility test procedures require the use of quality control organisms to control the technical aspects of the test procedures. Standardized fluconazole powder and 25 mcg disks should provide the following range of values noted in Table 2. NOTE: Quality control microorganisms are specific strains of organisms with intrinsic biological properties relating to resistance mechanisms and their genetic expression within fungi; the specific strains used for microbiological control are not clinically significant.

Table 2: Acceptable Quality Control Ranges for Fluconazole to be Used in Validation of Susceptibility Test Results

QC Strain


(MIC in mcg/mL)


(MIC in mcg/mL)

Disk Diffusion

(Zone Diameter in mm)

Candida parapsilosis ATCC 22019 2 to 8 1 to 4 22 to 33
Candida krusei ATCC 6258 16 to 64 16 to 128 *
Candida albicans ATCC 90028 * * 28 to 39
Candida tropicalis ATCC 750 * * 26 to 37

* Quality control ranges have not been established for this strain/antifungal agent combination due to their extensive interlaboratory variation during initial quality control studies.

Activity In Vivo

Fungistatic activity has also been demonstrated in normal and immunocompromised animal models for systemic and intracranial fungal infections due to Cryptococcus neoformans and for systemic infections due to Candida albicans.

In common with other azole antifungal agents, most fungi show a higher apparent sensitivity to fluconazole in vivo than in vitro. Fluconazole administered orally and/or intravenously was active in a variety of animal models of fungal infection using standard laboratory strains of fungi. Activity has been demonstrated against fungal infections caused by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus fumigatus in normal mice. Fluconazole has also been shown to be active in animal models of endemic mycoses, including one model of Blastomyces dermatitidis pulmonary infections in normal mice; one model of Coccidioides immitis intracranial infections in normal mice; and several models of Histoplasma capsulatum pulmonary infection in normal and immunosuppressed mice. The clinical significance of results obtained in these studies is unknown.

Oral fluconazole has been shown to be active in an animal model of vaginal candidiasis.

Concurrent administration of fluconazole and amphotericin B in infected normal and immunosuppressed mice showed the following results: a small additive antifungal effect in systemic infection with C. albicans, no interaction in intracranial infection with Cryptococcus neoformans, and antagonism of the two drugs in systemic infection with A. fumigatus. The clinical significance of results obtained in these studies is unknown.

Drug Resistance

Fluconazole resistance may arise from a modification in the quality or quantity of the target enzyme (lanosterol 14-α-demethylase), reduced access to the drug target, or some combination of these mechanisms.

Point mutations in the gene (ERG11) encoding for the target enzyme lead to an altered target with decreased affinity for azoles. Overexpression of ERG11 results in the production of high concentrations of the target enzyme, creating the need for higher intracellular drug concentrations to inhibit all of the enzyme molecules in the cell.

The second major mechanism of drug resistance involves active efflux of fluconazole out of the cell through the activation of two types of multidrug efflux transporters; the major facilitators (encoded by MDR genes) and those of the ATP-binding cassette superfamily (encoded by CDR genes). Upregulation of the MDR gene leads to fluconazole resistance, whereas, upregulation of CDR genes may lead to resistance to multiple azoles.

Resistance in Candida glabrata usually includes upregulation of CDR genes resulting in resistance to multiple azoles. For an isolate where the MIC is categorized as Intermediate (16 to 32 mcg/mL), the highest fluconazole dose is recommended.

Candida krusei should be considered to be resistant to fluconazole. Resistance in C. krusei appears to be mediated by reduced sensitivity of the target enzyme to inhibition by the agent.

There have been reports of cases of superinfection with Candida species other than C. albicans, which are often inherently not susceptible to fluconazole (e.g., Candida krusei). Such cases may require alternative antifungal therapy.

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