The in vitro fitness cost of antimicrobial resistance in Escherichia coli varies with the growth conditions

Andreas Petersen, Frank Møller Aarestrup, John Elmerdahl Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of stressful growth conditions on the fitness cost of antimicrobial resistance in Escherichia coli BJ4 caused by chromosomal mutations and plasmid acquisition. The fitness cost of chromosomal streptomycin resistance increased significantly when the bacteria were grown under all stress conditions tested, while the cost in 1/3 Luria–Bertani was not significantly changed in a streptomycin+rifampicin mutant. The increase in the fitness cost depended in a nonregular manner on the strain/stress combination. The fitness cost of plasmid-encoded resistance on R751 did not differ significantly, and was generally less under stressful growth conditions than in rich media. The fitness cost associated with R751 with the multiple drug resistance cassette from Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 increased significantly only under stressful conditions at low pH and at high-salt concentrations. Strains with an impaired rpoS demonstrated a reduced fitness only during growth in a high-salt concentration. In conclusion, it was demonstrated that bacterial fitness cost in association with antimicrobial resistance generally increases under stressful growth conditions. However, the growth potential of bacteria with antimicrobial resistances did not increase in a straightforward manner in these in vitro experiments and is therefore probably even more difficult to predict in vivo.
Original languageEnglish
JournalF E M S Microbiology Letters
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)53-59
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Fitness cost
  • Escherichia coli
  • Stress
  • Antimicrobial resistance


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