Fitness cost of antibiotic susceptibility during bacterial infection

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Science Translational Medicine  22 Jul 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 297, pp. 297ra114
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab1621


Advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing allow for a comprehensive analysis of bacterial genes that contribute to virulence in a specific infectious setting. Such information can yield new insights that affect decisions on how to best manage major public health issues such as the threat posed by increasing antimicrobial drug resistance. Much of the focus has been on the consequences of the selective advantage conferred on drug-resistant strains during antibiotic therapy. It is thought that the genetic and phenotypic changes that confer resistance also result in concomitant reductions in in vivo fitness, virulence, and transmission. However, experimental validation of this accepted paradigm is modest. Using a saturated transposon library of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, we identified genes across many functional categories and operons that contributed to maximal in vivo fitness during lung infections in animal models. Genes that bestowed both intrinsic and acquired antibiotic resistance provided a positive in vivo fitness advantage to P. aeruginosa during infection. We confirmed these findings in the pathogenic bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii and Vibrio cholerae using murine and rabbit infection models, respectively. Our results show that efforts to confront the worldwide increase in antibiotic resistance might be exacerbated by fitness advantages that enhance virulence in drug-resistant microbes.

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