Vancomycin (INN) is a glycopeptide antibiotic used in the prophylaxis and treatment of infections caused by Gram-positive bacteria. It has traditionally been reserved as a drug of "last resort", used only after treatment with other antibiotics had failed, although the emergence of vancomycin-resistant organisms means that it is increasingly being displaced from this role by linezolid and daptomycin.
The compound was initially labelled compound 05865, but was eventually given the generic name, vancomycin (derived from the word "vanquished"). One advantage that was quickly apparent was that staphylococci did not develop significant resistance despite serial passage in culture media containing vancomycin. The rapid development of penicillin-resistance by staphylococci led to the compound being fast-tracked for approval by the FDA in 1958. Eli Lilly first marketed vancomycin hydrochloride under the trade name Vancocin.
Vancomycin never became first line treatment for Staphylococcus aureus for several reasons:
In 2004, Eli Lilly licensed Vancocin to ViroPharma in the U.S., Flynn Pharma in the UK and Aspen Pharmacare in Australia. The patent expired in the early 1980s and generic versions of the drug are also available under various trade names.
Vancomycin biosynthesis occurs via different nonribosomal protein synthases (NRPSs). The enzymes determine the amino acid sequence during its assembly through its 7 modules. Before Vancomycin is assembled through NRPS, the amino acids are first modified. L-tyrosine is modified to become the β-hydroxychlorotyrosine (β-hTyr) and 4-hydroxyphenylglycine (HPG) residues. On the other hand, acetate is used to derive the 3,5 dihydroxyphenylglycine ring (3,5-DPG).
Nonribosomal peptide synthesis occurs through distinct modules that can load and extend the protein by one amino acid through the amide bond formation at the contact sites of the activating domains. Each module typically consists of an adenylation (A) domain, a peptidyl carrier protein (PCP) domain, and a condensation (C) or elongation domain. In the A domain, the specific amino acid is activated by converting into an aminoacyl adenylate enzyme complex attached to a 4’phosphopantetheine cofactor by thioesterification The complex is then transferred to the PCP domain with the expulsion of AMP. The PCP domain uses the attached 4’-phosphopantethein prosthetic group to load the growing peptide chain and their precursors. The organization of the modules necessary to biosynthesize Vancomycin is shown in Figure 1. In the biosynthesis of Vancomycin, additional modification domains are present, such as the epimerization (E) domain, which is used isomerizes the amino acid from one stereochemistry to another, and a thioesterase domain (TE) is used as a catalyst for cyclization and releases of the molecule via a thioesterase scission.
A set of multienzymes (peptide synthase CepA, CepB, and CepC) are responsible for assembling the heptapeptide. (Figure 2). The organization of CepA, CepB, and Cep C closely resembles orther peptide synthases such as those for surfactin (SrfA1, SrfA2 and SrfA3) and gramicidin (GrsA and GrsB). Each peptide synthase activates codes for various amino acids in order to activate each domain. CepA codes for modules 1, 2 and 3, CepB codes for modules 4,5,and 6, and CepC codes for module 7 codes. The three peptide synthases are located at the start of the region of the bacterial genome linked with antibiotic biosynthesis and spans 27kb.
After the linear heptapeptide molecule is synthesized, Vancomycin has to further undergo post-translational modifications, such as oxidative cross-linking and glycosylation, in trans by distinct enzymes, referred to as tailoring enzymes, in order to become biologically active (Figure 3). To convert the linear heptapeptide, eight enzymes, Open Reading Frames (ORF) 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 18, 20, and 21 are used. The enzymes ORF 7, 8,9 and 20 are P450 enzymes, ORF 10 and 18 show to nonheme haloperoxidases and ORF 9 and 14 are identified as putative hydroxylation enzymes. With the help of these enzymes, β-hydroxyl groups are introduced onto tyrosine residues 2 and 6 and coupling occurs for rings 5 and 7, rings 4 and 6, and rings 4 and 2. In addition, a haloperoxidase is used to attach the chlorine atoms onto rings 2 and 6 via an oxidative process.
Vancomycin acts by inhibiting proper cell wall synthesis in Gram-positive bacteria. The mechanism inhibited, and various factors related to entering the outer membrane of Gram-negative organisms mean that vancomycin is not active against Gram-negative bacteria (except some non-gonococcal species of Neisseria).
Specifically, vancomycin prevents incorporation of N-acetylmuramic acid (NAM)- and N-acetylglucosamine (NAG)-peptide subunits into the peptidoglycan matrix; which forms the major structural component of Gram-positive cell walls.
The large hydrophilic molecule is able to form hydrogen bond interactions with the terminal D-alanyl-D-alanine moieties of the NAM/NAG-peptides. Normally this is a five-point interaction. This binding of vancomycin to the D-Ala-D-Ala prevents the incorporation of the NAM/NAG-peptide subunits into the peptidoglycan matrix.
Vancomycin exhibits atropisomerism — it has two chemically distinct rotamers owing to the rotational restriction of the chlorotyrosine residue (on the right hand side of the figure). The form present in the drug is the thermodynamically more stable conformer, and, importantly, has more potent activity.
The increasing emergence of vancomycin-resistant enterococci has resulted in the development of guidelines for use by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. These guidelines restrict use of vancomycin to the following indications:
Damage to the kidneys and to the hearing were a side effect of the early impure versions of vancomycin, and these were prominent in the clinical trials conducted in the mid-1950s. Later trials using purer forms of vancomycin found that nephrotoxicity is an infrequent adverse effect (0.1–1% of patients), but that this is accentuated in the presence of aminoglycosides.
Rare adverse effects (<0.1% of patients) include: anaphylaxis, toxic epidermal necrolysis, erythema multiforme, red man syndrome (see below), superinfection, thrombocytopenia, neutropenia, leucopenia, tinnitus, dizziness and/or ototoxicity (see below).
Lately it has been emphasized that vancomycin can induce platelet-reactive antibodies in the patient, leading to severe thrombocytopenia and bleeding with florid petechial hemorrhages, ecchymoses, and wet purpura.
In 1994, Cantu and colleagues found that the use of vancomycin monotherapy was clearly documented in only three of 82 available cases in the literature. Prospective and retrospective studies attempting to evaluate the incidence of vancomycin-related nephrotoxicity have largely been methodologically flawed and have produced variable results. The most methodologically sound investigations indicate that the actual incidence of vancomycin-induced nephrotoxicity is around 5–7%. To put this into context, similar rates of renal dysfunction have been reported for cefamandole and benzylpenicillin, two reputedly non-nephrotoxic antibiotics.
Additionally, evidence to relate nephrotoxicity to vancomycin serum levels is inconsistent. Some studies have indicated an increased rate of nephrotoxicity when trough levels exceed 10 µg/mL, but others have not reproduced these results. Nephrotoxicity has also been observed with concentrations within the "therapeutic" range as well. Essentially, the reputation of vancomycin as a nephrotoxin is over-stated, and it has not been demonstrated that maintaining vancomycin serum levels within certain ranges will prevent its nephrotoxic effects, when they do occur.
Most gram-negative bacteria are intrinsically resistant to vancomycin because of their outer membrane is impermeable to large glycopeptide molecules (with the exception of some non-gonococcal Neisseria species).
One mechanism of resistance to vancomycin appears to be alteration to the terminal amino acid residues of the NAM/NAG-peptide subunits, normally D-alanyl-D-alanine, which vancomycin binds to. Variations such as D-alanyl-D-lactate and D-alanyl-D-serine result in only a 4-point hydrogen bonding interaction being possible between vancomycin and the peptide. This loss of just one point of interaction results in a 1000-fold decrease in affinity.
In Enterococci this modification appears to be due to the expression of an enzyme which alters the terminal residue. Three main resistance variants have been characterised to date among resistant Enterococcus faecium and E. faecalis populations.