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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2019 Apr 22. pii: AAC.02488-18. doi: 10.1128/AAC.02488-18. [Epub ahead of print]

Biofilm-associated Mycobacterium abscessus cells have altered antibiotic tolerance and surface glycolipids in Artificial Cystic Fibrosis Sputum Media.

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Department of Biology, University of Texas Arlington.
Department of Biology, University of Texas Arlington


Mycobacterium abscessus (Mab) is a biofilm-forming, multi-drug resistant, non-tuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) pathogen increasingly found in Cystic Fibrosis patients. Antibiotic treatment for these infections is often unsuccessful, partly due to Mab's high intrinsic antibiotic resistance. It is not clear whether antibiotic tolerance caused by biofilm formation also contributes to poor treatment outcomes. We studied the surface glycolipids and antibiotic tolerance of Mab biofilms grown in Artificial Cystic Fibrosis Sputum (ACFS) media in order to determine how they are affected by nutrient conditions that mimic infection. We found that Mab displays more of the virulence lipid trehalose dimycolate when grown in ACFS compared to standard lab media. In ACFS media, biofilm-associated cells are more antibiotic tolerant than planktonic cells in the same well. This contrasts with standard lab medias, where biofilm and planktonic cells are both highly antibiotic tolerant. These results indicate that Mab cell physiology in biofilms depends on environmental factors, and that nutrient conditions found within Cystic Fibrosis infections could contribute to both increased virulence and antibiotic tolerance.


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