Evolution of Antibiotic Tolerance Shapes Resistance Development in Chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa Infections

Authors: Santi, I., Manfredi, P., Maffei, E., Egli, A., and Jenal, U.

Published in: mBio 2021 Vol. 12 Issue 1

DOI: 10.1128/mBio.03482-20


The widespread use of antibiotics promotes the evolution and dissemination of resistance and tolerance mechanisms. To assess the relevance of tolerance and its implications for resistance development, we used in vitro evolution and analyzed the inpatient microevolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an important human pathogen causing acute and chronic infections. We show that the development of tolerance precedes and promotes the acquisition of resistance in vitro, and we present evidence that similar processes shape antibiotic exposure in human patients. Our data suggest that during chronic infections, P. aeruginosa first acquires moderate drug tolerance before following distinct evolutionary trajectories that lead to high-level multidrug tolerance or to antibiotic resistance. Our studies propose that the development of antibiotic tolerance predisposes bacteria for the acquisition of resistance at early stages of infection and that both mechanisms independently promote bacterial survival during antibiotic treatment at later stages of chronic infections.