Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The emergence of antimicrobial resistance is a major global threat to modern medicine. The rapid dissemination of resistant pathogens and the associated loss of efficacy of many important drugs needs to be met with the development of new antibiotics and alternative treatment options. A better understanding of the evolution of resistance could help in developing strategies to slow down the spread of antimicrobial drug resistance.In this thesis we investigated the evolution of resistance to two important antibiotics, rifampicin and ciprofloxacin, paying special attention to the resistance patterns occurring with high frequency in clinical isolates.Rifampicin is a first-line drug in tuberculosis treatment and resistance to this valuable drug limits treatment options. Our work on rifampicin resistance helps to explain the extreme bias seen in the frequency of specific resistance mutations in resistant clinical isolates of M. tuberculosis. We identified an important interplay between the level of resistance, relative fitness and selection of fitness-compensatory mutations among the most common resistant isolates.Fluoroquinlones are widely used to treat infections with Gram-negatives and the frequency of resistance to these important drugs is increasing. Resistance to fluoroquinolones is the result of a multi-step evolutionary process. Our studies on the development of resistance to the fluoroquinolone drug ciprofloxacin provide insights into the evolutionary trajectories and reveal the order in which susceptible wild-type E. coli acquire multiple mutations leading to high level of resistance. We found that the evolution of ciprofloxacin resistance is strongly influenced by the mutation supply rate and by the relative fitness of competing strains at each successive step in the evolution. Our data show that different classes of resistance mutations arise in a particular, predictable order during drug selection. We also uncovered strong evidence for the existence of a novel class of mutations affecting transcription and translation, which contribute to the evolution of resistance to ciprofloxacin.