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Keywords:

  • antibiotic resistance;
  • bacteria;
  • experimental evolution;
  • hypermutator;
  • phage therapy;
  • Pseudomonas

Abstract

The use of bacteriophages against pathogenic bacteria in health care and in the food industry is now being advocated as an alternative to the use of antibiotics. But what is the evolutionary response for a bacterial population if both antibiotics and phages are used in combination? We employ an experimental evolution approach to address these questions and exposed Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 and a related hypermutator strain (mutS−) to the action of the antibiotic rifampicin and the lytic bacteriophage SBW25ϕ2. We then compared the densities, growth rates, and the mutations at the rpoB locus leading to rifampicin resistance of the evolved bacterial populations. We observed that the evolutionary response of populations under different treatments varied depending on the order in which the antimicrobials were added and whether the bacterium was a hypermutator. We found that wild-type rifampicin-resistant populations involved in biofilm formation often reverted to rifampicin sensitivity when stresses were added sequentially. In contrast, when the mortality agents were added simultaneously, phage populations frequently went extinct and the bacteria evolved antibiotic resistance. However, populations of the hypermutator mutS− converged to a single genotype at the rpoB locus. Future investigation on other bacteria and using different antibiotics and bacteriophage are needed to evaluate the generality of our findings.