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J Med Microbiol. 2004 Sep;53(Pt 9):903-10.

Effect of subinhibitory concentration of piperacillin/tazobactam on Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

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Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Portugal.


Subinhibitory concentrations (sub-MICs) of antibiotics, although not able to kill bacteria, can modify their physico-chemical characteristics and the architecture of their outermost surface and may interfere with some bacterial functions. This study investigated the ability of sub-MIC piperacillin/tazobactam (P/T) to interfere with the bacterial virulence parameters of adhesiveness, cell-surface hydrophobicity, motility, biofilm formation and sensitivity to oxidative stress. Antimicrobial activity against five Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates, representative of clonal lineages of 96 strains of nosocomial origin, and six control strains (ATCC 27853, PAO1, AK1, MT1562, PT623, PAO1algC) was evaluated in vitro using the NCCLS microdilution method. The effects of sub-MIC on bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation were studied using a modified microtitre plate assay. The relative cell-surface hydrophobicity of P. aeruginosa strains was determined by measuring their ability to adhere to n-hexadecane. P. aeruginosa that had been exposed overnight to P/T and incubated with P/T in the plate were also screened for their ability to swim using flagella and to twitch and for their sensitivity to oxidative stress. The results obtained showed that the impact of sub-MIC P/T on bacterial characteristics was different for the various strains of P. aeruginosa. There was a change in bacterial morphology and hydrophobicity that could explain a significant decrease in adhesion values in all clinical isolates and controls tested, a decrease in biofilm formation, a significant increase in sensitivity to oxidative stress, a significant decrease in flagellum-mediated swimming and a decrease in type IV fimbriae-mediated twitching. The results obtained indicate that sub-MIC P/T interferes with the pathogenic potential of P. aeruginosa.

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