The FICI paradigm: correcting flaws in antimicrobial in vitro synergy screens at their inception.
Antibiotics have become the corner stone of modern medicine. However, our society is currently facing one of the greatest challenges of its time: the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. It is estimated that if no new therapies are implemented by 2050, 10 million people will die worldwide every year as a result of infections caused by bacteria resistant to current antibiotics; new antimicrobials are thus urgently needed. However, drug development is a tedious and very costly endeavor of hundreds of millions that can take up to 15-20 years from the bench discovery to the bedside. Under this scenario, drug repurposing, which consists in identifying new uses for old, clinically approved drugs, has gathered momentum within the pharmaceutical industry. Because most of these drugs have safety and toxicity information packages available, clinical evaluation could be done in a much shorter period than standard timelines. Synergistic combinations of these clinically approved drugs could also be a promising approach to identify novel antimicrobial therapies that might provide rational choices of available drugs to shorten treatment, increase efficacy, reduce toxicity, prevent resistance and treat infections caused by drug-resistant strains. However, although simple in its conception, translating results from in vitro synergy screens into in vivo efficacy or the clinical practice has proven to be a paramount challenge.
In this Commentary, we will discuss common flaws at the inception of synergy research programs, with a special focus on the use of the Fractional Inhibitory Concentration Index (FICI), and evaluate potential interventions that can be made at different developmental pre-clinical stages in order to improve the odds of translation from in vitro studies.