Aims: To assess the influence of incremental tetracycline exposure on the genetic basis of tetracycline resistance within faecal Escherichia coli .
Methods and Results: Through the adoption of a novel combination of multiple breakpoint selection, phenotypic characterization and the application of a polymerase chain reaction based gene identification system it proved possible to monitor the influence of antibiotic exposure on resistance gene possession. Using tetracycline as a case study a clear hierarchy was revealed between tet genes, strongly influenced by host antimicrobial exposure history.
Conclusions: The antimicrobial exposure regime under which an animal is produced affects both the identity and magnitude of resistance gene possession of a selected bacterial population within its enteric microflora. Among the ramifications associated with such resistance gene selection is the degree of resistance conferred and the carriage of linked resistance determinants. This selection is applied by exposure to antibiotic concentrations well below recognized minimum inhibitory tetracycline concentration breakpoints widely adopted to characterize bacterial 'susceptibility'.
Significance and Impact of the Study: This study confirms the ability of minimal antibiotic exposure to select for the continued persistence of resistance genes within the enteric microflora. It is clearly demonstrated that different antimicrobial regimes select for different resistance genes, the implications of which are discussed.