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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1992 Jan;36(1):121-5.

Antimicrobial susceptibility changes in Enterococcus faecalis following various penicillin exposure regimens.

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Department of Medicine, New England Deaconess Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.


Penicillin-"virgin" strains of Enterococcus faecalis collected from a population of individuals with no previous antibiotic exposure were subjected in vitro to penicillin delivered as repeated pulses, stepwise increasing concentrations, or sustained levels of a single concentration. Changes in resistance to penicillin were assessed by determination of MICs, and time-kill studies were performed to evaluate changes in tolerance to the bactericidal effects of penicillin. Isogenic clones, derived from various exposure regimens, which exhibited changes in either resistance or tolerance were further examined for changes in penicillin-binding proteins. Exposure to repeated pulses of penicillin resulted in the development of tolerance to penicillin without changes in the level of resistance. Clones derived from a regimen of stepwise increases in the penicillin concentration acquired both increased penicillin resistance and tolerance. Clones selected after prolonged continuous exposure to a fixed concentration of penicillin displayed minimally increased resistance to penicillin, but they retained the lytic, nontolerant response to the bactericidal effect of penicillin. Clones which acquired tolerance to the bactericidal effect of penicillin without changes in penicillin resistance exhibited a penicillin-binding protein pattern identical to that of the parental strain. Increased labeling of several penicillin-binding proteins accompanied the development of increased penicillin resistance in both penicillin-tolerant and nontolerant strains. Exposure of E. faecalis to penicillin in repeated pulses of brief duration, for prolonged periods at a constant concentration, or in stepwise graded concentrations can result in the selection of clones with increased resistance to the inhibitory or bactericidal effects of penicillin, or both. These observations may be relevant to the selection of dosing regimes for penicillin in the treatment of enterococcal infections, when bactericidal synergism cannot be achieved with penicillin-aminoglycoside combinations.

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