In vivo transmission of an IncA/C plasmid in Escherichia coli depends on tetracycline concentration, and acquisition of the plasmid results in a variable cost of fitnessJohnson TJ, Singer RS, Isaacson RE, Danzeisen JL, Lang K, Kobluk K, Rivet B, Borewicz K, Frye JG, Englen M, Anderson J, Davies PR
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 81:3561-3570
IncA/C plasmids are broad-host-range plasmids enabling multidrug resistance that have emerged worldwide among bacterial pathogens of humans and animals. Although antibiotic usage is suspected to be a driving force in the emergence of such strains, few studies have examined the impact of different types of antibiotic administration on the selection of plasmid-containing multidrug resistant isolates. In this study, chlortetracycline treatment at different concentrations in pig feed was examined for its impact on selection and dissemination of an IncA/C plasmid introduced orally via a commensal Escherichia coli host. Continuous low-dose administration of chlortetracycline at 50 g per ton had no observable impact on the proportions of IncA/C plasmid-containing E. coli from pig feces over the course of 35 days. In contrast, high-dose administration of chlortetracycline at 350 g per ton significantly increased IncA/C plasmid-containing E. coli in pig feces (P < 0.001) and increased movement of the IncA/C plasmid to other indigenous E. coli hosts. There was no evidence of conjugal transfer of the IncA/C plasmid to bacterial species other than E. coli. In vitro competition assays demonstrated that bacterial host background substantially impacted the cost of IncA/C plasmid carriage in E. coli and Salmonella. In vitro transfer and selection experiments demonstrated that tetracycline at 32 μg/ml was necessary to enhance IncA/C plasmid conjugative transfer, while subinhibitory concentrations of tetracycline in vitro strongly selected for IncA/C plasmid-containing E. coli. Together, these experiments improve our knowledge on the impact of differing concentrations of tetracycline on the selection of IncA/C-type plasmids.