Social evolution of antibiotic resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections

Thursday 2 May 2019, 1.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Melanie Ghoul, University of Oxford

Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is an accelerating problem globally.

We now understand that bacteria have complex social lives, involving both cooperative as well as competitive behaviors. Importantly, some antibiotic resistance mechanisms in bacteria are cooperative. Secretion of an enzyme that breaks down the antibiotic benefits both self and neighbouring cells. However, producers of this public good enzyme are vulnerable to invasion by cheats that do not produce it but exploit others’ production.

Resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics occurs in this manner by the secretion of the beta-lactamase enzyme. We use a longitudinally sampled collection of the opportunistic pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, that causes infection in the cystic fibrosis lung, to investigate how beta-lactamase levels vary over time and among co-existing strains, and we investigate the implications this has on interacting strains’ fitness.

We show that understanding the social interactions between cooperators and cheats is crucial to understanding the evolution of beta-lactam antibiotic resistance.

Location: Dianna Bowles Lecture Theatre (K018)