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Data from: Resistance gene carriage predicts growth of natural and clinical Escherichia coli isolates in the absence of antibiotics


Allen, Richard C.; Angst, Daniel C.; Hall, Alex R. (2019), Data from: Resistance gene carriage predicts growth of natural and clinical Escherichia coli isolates in the absence of antibiotics, Dryad, Dataset,


Bacterial pathogens that carry antibiotic resistance alleles sometimes pay a cost in the form of impaired growth in antibiotic-free conditions. This cost of resistance is expected to be a key parameter for understanding how resistance spreads and persists in pathogen populations. Analysis of individual resistance alleles from laboratory evolution and natural isolates has shown they are typically costly, but these costs are highly variable and influenced by genetic variation at other loci. It therefore remains unclear how strongly resistance is linked to impaired antibiotic-free growth in bacteria from natural and clinical scenarios, where resistance alleles are likely to coincide with other types of genetic variation. To investigate this, we measured the growth of 92 natural and clinical Escherichia coli isolates across three antibiotic-free environments. We then tested whether variation of antibiotic-free growth among isolates was predicted by their resistance to 10 antibiotics, while accounting for the phylogenetic structure of the data. We found that isolates with similar resistance profiles had similar antibiotic-free growth profiles, but it was not simply that higher average resistance was associated with impaired growth. Next, we used whole-genome sequences to identify antibiotic resistance genes and found that isolates carrying a greater number of resistance gene types grew relatively poorly in antibiotic-free conditions, even when the resistance genes they carried were different. This suggests that the resistance of bacterial pathogens is linked to growth costs in nature, but it is the total genetic burden and multivariate resistance phenotype that predict these costs, rather than individual alleles or mean resistance across antibiotics. IMPORTANCE Managing the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens is a major challenge for global public health. Central to this challenge is understanding whether resistance is linked to impaired bacterial growth in the absence of antibiotics, because this determines whether resistance declines when bacteria are no longer exposed to antibiotics. We studied 92 isolates of the key bacterial pathogen Escherichia coli; these isolates varied in both their antibiotic resistance genes and other parts of the genome. Taking this approach, rather than focusing on individual genetic changes associated with resistance as in much previous work, revealed that growth without antibiotics was linked to the number of specialized resistance genes carried and the combination of antibiotics to which isolates were resistant but was not linked to average antibiotic resistance. This approach provides new insights into the genetic factors driving the long-term persistence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is important for future efforts to predict and manage resistance.

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