Sub-minimum inhibiting concentrations (sub-MICs) of antibiotics frequently occur in natural environments owing to wide-spread antibiotic leakage by human action. Even though the concentrations are very low, these sub-MICs have recently been shown to alter bacterial populations by selecting for antibiotic resistance and increasing the rate of adaptive evolution. However, studies are lacking on how these effects reverberate into key ecological interactions, such as bacteria–phage interactions. Previously, co-selection of bacteria by phages and antibiotic concentrations exceeding MICs has been hypothesized to decrease the rate of resistance evolution because of fitness costs associated with resistance mutations. By contrast, here we show that sub-MICs of the antibiotic streptomycin (Sm) increased the rate of phage resistance evolution, as well as causing extinction of the phage. Notably, Sm and the phage in combination also enhanced the evolution of Sm resistance compared with Sm alone. These observations demonstrate the potential of sub-MICs of antibiotics to impact key ecological interactions in microbial communities with evolutionary outcomes that can radically differ from those associated with high concentrations. Our findings also contribute to the understanding of ecological and evolutionary factors essential for the management of the antibiotic resistance problem.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Human influences on evolution, and the ecological and societal consequences’.
One contribution of 18 to a theme issue ‘Human influences on evolution, and the ecological and societal consequences’.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3573441.
- Accepted July 12, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.