Persistence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations


  • Editor: Fernando Baquero

Correspondence: Dan I. Andersson, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University, Box 582, SE-751 23 Uppsala, Sweden. Tel.: +46 18 471 4175; fax: +46 18 471 4673; e-mail:


Unfortunately for mankind, it is very likely that the antibiotic resistance problem we have generated during the last 60 years due to the extensive use and misuse of antibiotics is here to stay for the foreseeable future. This view is based on theoretical arguments, mathematical modeling, experiments and clinical interventions, suggesting that even if we could reduce antibiotic use, resistant clones would remain persistent and only slowly (if at all) be outcompeted by their susceptible relatives. In this review, we discuss the multitude of mechanisms and processes that are involved in causing the persistence of chromosomal and plasmid-borne resistance determinants and how we might use them to our advantage to increase the likelihood of reversing the problem. Of particular interest is the recent demonstration that a very low antibiotic concentration can be enriching for resistant bacteria and the implication that antibiotic release into the environment could contribute to the selection for resistance.