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Abstract

Purpose. Persister cells, a subpopulation of tolerant cells within the bacterial culture, are commonly thought to be responsible for antibiotic therapy failure and infection recurrence. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a notorious human pathogen for its increasing resistance to antibiotics and wide involvement in severe infections. In this study, we aimed to investigate the persister subpopulation of K. pneumoniae.

Methodology. The presence of persisters in K. pneumoniae was determined by treatment with high concentrations of antibiotics, used alone or in combination. The effect of low level of antibiotics on persister formation was investigated by pre-exposure of cells to antibiotics with low concentrations followed by higher doses. The dependence of persister levels on growth phase was determined by measuring the survival ability of cells along the growth stages upon exposure to a high concentration of antibiotic. Analysis on persister type was carried out by persister elimination assays.

Results/Key findings. We show that K. pneumoniae produces high levels of tolerant persister cells to survive treatment by a variety of high concentrations of bactericidal antibiotics and persister formation is prevalent among K. pneumoniae clinical strains. Besides, we find that persister cells can be induced by low concentrations of antibiotics. Finally, we provide evidence that persister formation is growth phase-dependent and Type II persisters dominate the persister subpopulation during the entire exponential phase of K. pneumoniae.

Conclusion. Our study describes the formation of tolerant persister cells that allow survival of treatment by high concentrations of antibiotics in K. pneumoniae.

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2018-01-19
2019-10-20
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