Journal of medical microbiology

SubMICs of penicillin and erythromycin enhance biofilm formation and hydrophobicity of Corynebacterium diphtheriae strains.

PMID 23449875


Subinhibitory concentrations (subMICs) of antibiotics may alter bacterial surface properties and change microbial physiology. This study aimed to investigate the effect of a subMIC (⅛ MIC) of penicillin (PEN) and erythromycin (ERY) on bacterial morphology, haemagglutinating activity, cell-surface hydrophobicity (CSH) and biofilm formation on glass and polystyrene surfaces, as well as the distribution of cell-surface acidic anionic residues of Corynebacterium diphtheriae strains (HC01 tox(-) strain; CDC-E8392 and 241 tox(+) strains). All micro-organisms tested were susceptible to PEN and ERY. Growth in the presence of PEN induced bacterial filamentation, whereas subMIC of ERY caused cell-size reduction of strains 241 and CDC-E8392. Adherence to human erythrocytes was reduced after growth in the presence of ERY, while CSH was increased by a subMIC of both antibiotics in bacterial adherence to n-hexadecane assays. Conversely, antibiotic inhibition of biofilm formation was not observed. All strains enhanced biofilm formation on glass after treatment with ERY, while only strain 241 increased glass adherence after cultivation in the presence of PEN. Biofilm production on polystyrene surfaces was improved by ⅛ MIC of ERY. After growth in the presence of both antimicrobial agents, strains 241 and CDC-E8392 exhibited anionic surface charges with focal distribution. In conclusion, subMICs of PEN and ERY modified bacterial surface properties and enhanced not only biofilm formation but also cell-surface hydrophobicity. Antibiotic-induced biofilm formation may contribute to the inconsistent success of antimicrobial therapy for C. diphtheriae infections.