History of Sulfonamides

6 September 2021 – News

History of Sulfonamides

Since 1940, the use of antimicrobial drugs (AMD) in animals has been evolving with reports on a range of uses, misuses and abuses escalating. There are various drugs used in veterinary medicine, but we will now focus on the use of sulfonamides.

The first veterinary use of sulfanilamide was for bovine mastitis therapy in 1937. In 1948, the first epidemiological survey on the efficacy of sulfonamides was published and it reported a significant increase in the recovery rate of pneumonia in cattle. In the same year, the routine incorporation of AMD in poultry feeds to prevent coccidiosis was initiated. In 1958, it was reported that sulfonamides (and other antibiotics like penicillin and erythromycin) crossed the blood-milk barrier through passive diffusion in cattle and goats. Eleven years later, the Swann report, one of the first examples of precautionary European risk regulation, recommended that these AMDs should no longer be supplied without prescription.

The differences between domestic animals regarding sulfonamide metabolization, distribution and excretion were investigated by several researchers and time has shown that data should not be extrapolated between species. In fact, a study has demonstrated that thymidine (an antagonist of the action of trimethoprim on pathogens like E. coli) serum concentrations is high in rats, cattle and mice but low in dogs and man. It’s important to remember that the combination of sulfonamides with diaminopyrimidine is common in veterinary medicine and trimethoprim was the first-in-class diaminopyrimidine compound.

Currently, combinations of sulfonamides with dihydrofolate reductase inhibitors are included in the class of lowest risk in terms of public health. Thus, this is the ideal timing to optimize this class of AMD combination by rational selection of both sulfonamide and diaminopyrimidine.

Lees, P, Pelligand, L, Giraud, E, Toutain, P-L. A history of antimicrobial drugs in animals: Evolution and revolution. J vet Pharmacol Therap. 2021; 44: 137– 171. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvp.12895