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Selection for antibiotic resistance is reduced when embedded in a natural microbial community

By Uli Kl├╝mper, Mario Recker, Lihong Zhang, Xiaole Yin, Tong Zhang, Angus Buckling, William Gaze

Posted 24 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/529651

Antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the most pressing, global threats to public health. In single-species experiments selection for antibiotic resistance occurs at very low antibiotic concentrations. However, it is unclear how far these findings can be extrapolated to natural environments, where species are embedded within complex communities. We competed isogenic strains of Escherichia coli, differing exclusively in a single chromosomal resistance determinant, in the presence and absence of a pig fecal microbial community across a gradient of antibiotic concentration for two relevant antibiotics: gentamicin and kanamycin. We show that the minimal selective concentration was increased by more than one order of magnitude for both antibiotics when embedded in the community. We identified two general mechanisms were responsible for the increase in minimal selective concentration: an increase in the cost of resistance and a protective effect of the community for the susceptible phenotype. These findings have implications for our understanding of the evolution and selection of antibiotic resistance, and can inform future risk assessment efforts on antibiotic concentrations.

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