Endemic hospital strains of are often resistant to mercury (Hg) ions (Moore, 1960). Determinants for resistance to Hg and other heavy-metal ions, such as cadmium (Cd) and arsenate (As), are often on the penicillase plasmid (Richmond and John, 1964; Dyke, Parker and Richmond, 1970) and strains resistant to all three metals often have multiple resistance to antibiotics (Dyke , 1970; Nakahara , 1977) and produce large amounts of penicillinase (Richmond , 1964).

Different penicillinase plasmids harbour different heavy-metal resistances (Novick and Richmond, 1965; Dyke , 1970; Lacey and Rosdahl, 1974), and changes in metal-resistance pattern might be expected to reflect changes in the occurrence of plasmids in So far, investigations of metal resistance have been performed only on strains isolated during a short period or from a few hospitals (Dyke , 1970; Nakahara , 1977). The investigations described here were performed on bacteriaemia strains that were epidemiologically unrelated (Jessen , 1969) and had been isolated during a long period, 1957-74 (Rosendal , 1976).


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