Variable Effects of Exposure to Formulated Microbicides on Antibiotic Susceptibility in Firmicutes and Proteobacteria
- Publisher: American Society for Microbiology
Public and Environmental Health Microbiology
Microbicides are broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents that generally interact with multiple pharmacological targets. While they are widely deployed in disinfectant, antiseptic, and preservative formulations, data relating to their potential to select for microbicide or antibiotic resistance have been generated mainly by testing the compounds in much simpler aqueous solutions. In the current investigation, antibiotic susceptibility was determined for bacteria that had previously exhibited decreased microbicide susceptibility following repeated exposure to microbicides either in formulation with sequestrants and surfactants or in simple aqueous solution. Statistically significant increases in antibiotic susceptibility occurred for 12% of bacteria after exposure to microbicides in formulation and 20% of bacteria after exposure to microbicides in aqueous solutions, while 22% became significantly less susceptible to the antibiotics, regardless of formulation. Of the combinations of a bacterium and an antibiotic for which British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy breakpoints are available, none became resistant. Linear modeling taking into account phylogeny, microbicide, antibiotic, and formulation identified small but significant effects of formulation that varied depending on the bacterium and microbicide. Adaptation to formulated benzalkonium chloride in particular was more likely to increase antibiotic susceptibility than adaptation to the simple aqueous solution. In conclusion, bacterial adaptation through repeated microbicide exposure was associated with both increases and decreases in antibiotic susceptibility. Formulation of the microbicide to which the bacteria had previously adapted had an identifiable effect on antibiotic susceptibility, but it effect was typically small relative to the differences observed among microbicides. Susceptibility changes resulting in resistance were not observed. \ud \ud IMPORTANCE The safety of certain microbicide applications has been questioned due to the possibility that microbicide exposure could select for microbicide and antibiotic resistance. Evidence that this may happen is based mainly on in vitro experiments where bacteria have been exposed to microbicides in aqueous solution. Microbicides are, however, normally deployed in products formulated with surfactants, sequestrants, and other compounds. While this may influence the frequency and extent of susceptibility changes, few studies reported in the literature have assessed this. In the current investigation, therefore, we have investigated changes in antibiotic susceptibility in bacteria which exhibited decreased microbicide susceptibility following repeated exposure to microbicides in simple aqueous solutions and in formulation. We report that the microbicide formulation had an identifiable effect on antibiotic susceptibility, but it was typically small relative to the differences observed among microbicides. We did not observe susceptibility changes resulting in resistance.