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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1987 Oct;53(10):2338-42.

Frequency of antibiotic and heavy metal resistance, pigmentation, and plasmids in bacteria of the marine air-water interface.

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  • 1Department of Marine Microbiology, University of Göteborg, Sweden.


A field investigation of marine coastal waters revealed that the frequency of pigmented bacteria and the occurrence of bacterial antibiotic resistance were higher at the air-water interface than in the bulk water. The differences in the frequency of pigmented colonies at the surface and in the bulk-water samples could not be explained by the degree of cell surface hydrophobicity or by bacterial adhesion to air-water interfaces. Pigmented strains exhibited a higher degree of multiple drug resistance than did nonpigmented strains. However, the frequency of multiple drug resistance in nonpigmented strains was also substantial. An average of 91% of all strains were resistant to more than one antibiotic, and 21% of the bacteria isolated were resistant to five of the eight antibiotics tested. High numbers of plasmid-carrying strains were found among selected surface isolates, but the presence of detectable plasmids could not be correlated with either pigmentation or multiple drug resistance. Furthermore, selected surface isolates were significantly more resistant to mercury than were bulk-water bacteria. The higher frequency of pigmented, antibiotic-resistant, and mercury resistant strains at the air-water interface than in the bulk water are discussed in terms of various forms of selective pressure and genetic exchange at the surface.

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