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PLoS Biol. 2018 Apr 30;16(4):e2004356. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2004356. eCollection 2018 Apr.

Antibiotic combination efficacy (ACE) networks for a Pseudomonas aeruginosa model.

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Evolutionary Ecology and Genetics, Zoological Institute, Kiel, Germany.
Biosciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom.


The spread of antibiotic resistance is always a consequence of evolutionary processes. The consideration of evolution is thus key to the development of sustainable therapy. Two main factors were recently proposed to enhance long-term effectiveness of drug combinations: evolved collateral sensitivities between the drugs in a pair and antagonistic drug interactions. We systematically assessed these factors by performing over 1,600 evolution experiments with the opportunistic nosocomial pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa in single- and multidrug environments. Based on the growth dynamics during these experiments, we reconstructed antibiotic combination efficacy (ACE) networks as a new tool for characterizing the ability of the tested drug combinations to constrain bacterial survival as well as drug resistance evolution across time. Subsequent statistical analysis of the influence of the factors on ACE network characteristics revealed that (i) synergistic drug interactions increased the likelihood of bacterial population extinction-irrespective of whether combinations were compared at the same level of inhibition or not-while (ii) the potential for evolved collateral sensitivities between 2 drugs accounted for a reduction in bacterial adaptation rates. In sum, our systematic experimental analysis allowed us to pinpoint 2 complementary determinants of combination efficacy and to identify specific drug pairs with high ACE scores. Our findings can guide attempts to further improve the sustainability of antibiotic therapy by simultaneously reducing pathogen load and resistance evolution.

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