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J Infect Dis. 1977 Sep;136(3):360-9.

Emergence of variant forms of Staphylococcus aureus after exposure to gentamicin and infectivity of the variants in experimental animals.


Exposure of a large inoculum of Staphylococcus aureus in vitro to concentrations of gentamicin that exceeded the minimal bactericidal concentration regularly resulted in the emergence of aminoglycoside-resistant bacterial variants. Variants lacked typical properties that are associated with S. aureus: they produced small, nonhemolytic colonies that were mostly coagulase-, deoxyribonuclease-, and mannitol-negative. In some instances phage type also differed from that of the parent forms. Animal models of subcutaneous and intravenous infection were studied with use of parent and variant forms of S. aureus. Subcutaneous injection of variants into rats readily produced abscesses, and intravenous inoculation into mice caused pyelonephritis, although in each experimental model in which equivalent bacterial inocula were used, parents produced more extensive disease. These data show that variants of S. aureus cause infection in experimental animals, although these variants appear to be somewhat less virulent than the parents from which they are derived. Preliminary studies in our laboratory have also shown that gentamicin-resistant variants of gram-negative bacilli can be induced by a single in vitro exposure to gentamicin. The virulence of these organisms and their role in antibiotic-susceptibility patterns of hospital flora warrant further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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