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J Appl Microbiol. 2003;95(6):1261-7.

Clonal variation in maximum specific growth rate and susceptibility towards antimicrobials.

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1
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.

Abstract

AIMS:

To examine associations between growth rate within bacterial populations and survival patterns following treatment with antimicrobial agents.

METHODS AND RESULTS:

Time survival data were generated for the inactivation of Escherichia coli populations, grown as batch and continuous cultures, exposed to ciprofloxacin, benzalkonium chloride and tetracycline. Time-survivor plots were biphasic. Surviving cells were collected and immediately re-exposed to agent or were regrown and then re-exposed. Survivors were resistant to immediate challenge with any of the treatment agents. This resistance was lost on regrowth suggesting that survival reflects an expressed phenotype within a subset of the culture (persisters) rather than individual resistant clones or nonspecific quenching of the test agent. The fraction of persisters increased with decreasing growth rate when cultures were prepared in continuous culture.

CONCLUSIONS:

Clonal growth rates within populations were determined by culture of individual cells within microtitre plate wells. The fraction of clones, in batch cultures, growing maximally at rates below the apparent threshold for susceptibility to the test agents was sufficient to explain the results of continuous culture experiments.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY:

The presence of persisters in populations of bacteria relate to small subset of cells that are growing only slowly or are metabolically quiescent.

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