Changes in toxin production of environmental Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates exposed to sub-inhibitory concentrations of three common antibiotics

Biljana Mojsoska, Melanie Ghoul, Gabriel G. Perron, Håvard Jenssen, Fatima AlZahraa Alatraktchi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an environmental pathogen that can cause severe infections in immunocompromised patients. P. aeruginosa infections are typically treated with multiple antibiotics including tobramycin, ciprofloxacin, and meropenem. However, antibiotics do not always entirely clear the bacteria from the infection site, where they may remain virulent. This is because the effective antibiotic concentration and diffusion in vitro may differ from the in vivo environment in patients. Therefore, it is important to understand the effect of non-lethal sub-inhibitory antibiotic concentrations on bacterial phenotype. Here, we investigate if sub-inhibitory antimicrobial concentrations cause alterations in bacterial virulence factor production using pyocyanin as a model toxin. We tested this using the aforementioned antibiotics on 10 environmental P. aeruginosa strains. Using on-the-spot electrochemical screening, we were able to directly quantify changes in production of pyocyanin in a measurement time of 17 seconds. Upon selecting 3 representative strains to further test the effects of sub-minimum inhibitory concentration (MICs), we found that pyocyanin production changed significantly when the bacteria were exposed to 10-fold MIC of the 3 antibiotics tested, and this was strain specific. A series of biologically relevant measured pyocyanin concentrations were also used to assess the effects of increased virulence on a culture of epithelial cells. We found a decreased viability of the epithelial cells when incubated with biologically relevant pyocyanin concentrations. This suggests that the antibiotic-induced virulence also is a value worth being enclosed in regular testing of pathogens
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0248014
JournalP L o S One
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021

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