Exposure of Salmonella biofilms to antibiotic concentrations rapidly selects resistance with collateral tradeoffs

Eleftheria Trampari, Emma R Holden, Gregory J Wickham, Anuradha Ravi, Leonardo de Oliveira Martins, George M Savva, Mark A Webber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Most bacteria in nature exist in biofilms, which are inherently tolerant to antibiotics. There is currently very limited understanding of how biofilms evolve in response to sub-lethal concentrations of antimicrobials. In this study, we use a biofilm evolution model to study the effects of sub-inhibitory concentrations of three antibiotics on Salmonella Typhimurium biofilms. We show that biofilms rapidly evolve resistance to each antibiotic they are exposed to, demonstrating a strong selective pressure on biofilms from low antibiotic concentrations. While all antibiotics tested select for clinical resistance, there is no common mechanism. Adaptation to antimicrobials, however, has a marked cost for other clinically important phenotypes, including biofilm formation and virulence. Cefotaxime selects mutants with the greatest deficit in biofilm formation followed by azithromycin and then ciprofloxacin. Understanding the impacts of exposure of biofilms to antibiotics will help understand evolutionary trajectories and may help guide how best to use antibiotics in a biofilm context. Experimental evolution in combination with whole-genome sequencing is a powerful tool for the prediction of evolution trajectories associated with antibiotic resistance in biofilms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Journalnpj Biofilms and Microbiomes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2021

Cite this