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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 Dec;66(12):5406-9.

Long-term shifts in patterns of antibiotic resistance in enteric bacteria.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


Several mechanisms are responsible for the ability of microorganisms to tolerate antibiotics, and the incidence of resistance to these compounds within bacterial species has increased since the commercial use of antibiotics became widespread. To establish the extent of and changes in the diversity of antibiotic resistance patterns in natural populations, we determined the MICs of five antibiotics for collections of enteric bacteria isolated from diverse hosts and geographic locations and during periods before and after commercial application of antibiotics began. All of the pre-antibiotic era strains were susceptible to high levels of these antibiotics, whereas 20% of strains from contemporary populations of Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica displayed high-level resistance to at least one of the antibiotics. In addition to the increase in the frequency of high-level resistance, background levels, conferred by genes providing nonspecific low-level resistance to multiple antibiotics, were significantly higher among contemporary strains. Changes in the incidence and levels of antibiotic resistance are not confined to particular segments of the bacterial population and reflect responses to the increased exposure of bacteria to antimicrobial compounds over the past several decades.

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