PLoS Pathogens (Mar 2020)

Antibiotic interactions shape short-term evolution of resistance in E. faecalis.

  • Ziah Dean,
  • Jeff Maltas,
  • Kevin B Wood

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 16, no. 3
p. e1008278


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Antibiotic combinations are increasingly used to combat bacterial infections. Multidrug therapies are a particularly important treatment option for E. faecalis, an opportunistic pathogen that contributes to high-inoculum infections such as infective endocarditis. While numerous synergistic drug combinations for E. faecalis have been identified, much less is known about how different combinations impact the rate of resistance evolution. In this work, we use high-throughput laboratory evolution experiments to quantify adaptation in growth rate and drug resistance of E. faecalis exposed to drug combinations exhibiting different classes of interactions, ranging from synergistic to suppressive. We identify a wide range of evolutionary behavior, including both increased and decreased rates of growth adaptation, depending on the specific interplay between drug interaction and drug resistance profiles. For example, selection in a dual β-lactam combination leads to accelerated growth adaptation compared to selection with the individual drugs, even though the resulting resistance profiles are nearly identical. On the other hand, populations evolved in an aminoglycoside and β-lactam combination exhibit decreased growth adaptation and resistant profiles that depend on the specific drug concentrations. We show that the main qualitative features of these evolutionary trajectories can be explained by simple rescaling arguments that correspond to geometric transformations of the two-drug growth response surfaces measured in ancestral cells. The analysis also reveals multiple examples where resistance profiles selected by drug combinations are nearly growth-optimized along a contour connecting profiles selected by the component drugs. Our results highlight trade-offs between drug interactions and resistance profiles during the evolution of multi-drug resistance and emphasize evolutionary benefits and disadvantages of particular drug pairs targeting enterococci.