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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2011 Sep;35(5):977-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00295.x. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance following exposure to antibiotics.

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Servicio de Microbiología and CIBER en Epidemiología y Salud Pública, Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal and Instituto Ramón y Cajal de Investigación Sanitaria, Madrid, Spain.


Within a susceptible wild-type population, a small fraction of cells, even <10(-9) , is not affected when challenged by an antimicrobial agent. This subpopulation has mutations that impede antimicrobial action, allowing their selection during clinical treatment. Emergence of resistance occurs in the frame of a selective compartment termed a mutant selection window (MSW). The lower margin corresponds to the minimum inhibitory concentration of the susceptible cells, whereas the upper boundary, named the mutant prevention concentration (MPC), restricts the growth of the entire population, including that of the resistant mutants. By combining pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic concepts and an MPC strategy, the selection of resistant mutants can be limited. Early treatment avoiding an increase of the inoculum size as well as a regimen restricting the time within the MSW can reduce the probability of emergence of the resistant mutants. Physiological and, possibly, genetic adaptation in biofilms and a high proportion of mutator clones that may arise during chronic infections influence the emergence of resistant mutants. Moreover, a resistant population can emerge in a specific selective compartment after acquiring a resistance trait by horizontal gene transfer, but this may also be avoided to some extent when the MPC is reached. Known linkage between antimicrobial use and resistance should encourage actions for the design of antimicrobial treatment regimens that minimize the emergence of resistance. Emergence of a resistant bacterial subpopulation within a susceptible wild-type population can be restricted with a regimen using an antibiotic dose that is sufficiently high to inhibit both susceptible and resistant bacteria.

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