Visualization of the charcoal agar resazurin assay for semi-quantitative, medium-throughput enumeration of mycobacteria
There is an urgent need to discover and progress anti-infectives that shorten the duration of tuberculosis (TB) treatment. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the etiological agent of TB, is refractory to rapid and lasting chemotherapy due to the presence of bacilli exhibiting phenotypic drug resistance. The charcoal agar resazurin assay (CARA) was developed as a tool to characterize active molecules discovered by high-throughput screening campaigns against replicating and non-replicating M. tuberculosis. Inclusion of activated charcoal in bacteriologic agar medium helps mitigate the impact of compound carry-over, and eliminates the requirement to pre-dilute cells prior to spotting on CARA microplates. After a 7-10 day incubation period at 37 °C, the reduction of resazurin by mycobacterial microcolonies growing on the surface of CARA microplate wells permits semi-quantitative assessment of bacterial numbers via fluorometry. The CARA detects approximately a 2-3 log10 difference in bacterial numbers and predicts a minimal bactericidal concentration leading to ≥99% bacterial kill (MBC≥99). The CARA helps determine whether a molecule is active on bacilli that are replicating, non-replicating, or both. Pilot experiments using the CARA facilitate the identification of which concentration of test agent and time of compound exposure require further evaluation by colony forming unit (CFU) assays. In addition, the CARA can predict if replicating actives are bactericidal or bacteriostatic.