Effect of subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics on extracellular Shiga-like toxin I

Infection. Jan-Feb 1992;20(1):25-9. doi: 10.1007/BF01704889.


Patients with diarrhea due to strains of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) (e. g. O157:H7) might be at a higher risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome when treated with antimicrobial agents. It has been suggested that this might be due to an increase of release or production of vero or shiga-like toxin from such organisms, possibly as a stress response to antimicrobial agents. The aim of this study was to detect such increases in extracellular toxin in vitro with a newly developed method that exposed EHEC to high sublethal concentrations followed by a recovery phase at progressively lower concentrations. Five strains of EHEC were exposed to continuously changing concentrations of ciprofloxacin, co-trimoxazole, cefixime and tetracycline. The amount of free shiga-like toxin I (SLT-I) released was compared to the amount released from inocula that were not exposed to antibiotics. There were significant differences between the five EHEC strains in the amount of toxin detected after exposure to antimicrobial agents (p less than 0.001). Equally important was the type of antibiotic (p less than 0.001), with ciprofloxacin inducing the largest increase ranging from 169 to 436%, followed by co-trimoxazole, cefixime and tetracycline. In addition, the increases in free toxin correlated with the concentration of the antibiotics (p less than 0.001). The association between antibiotic-induced increases in SLT-I produced by strains of EHEC and certain classes of antibiotics might influence the analysis of future epidemiological studies on risk factors for HUS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Toxins / analysis
  • Bacterial Toxins / biosynthesis*
  • Cefixime
  • Cefotaxime / analogs & derivatives
  • Cefotaxime / pharmacology
  • Ciprofloxacin / pharmacology
  • Diarrhea / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Shiga Toxin 1
  • Species Specificity
  • Tetracycline / pharmacology
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / pharmacology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Shiga Toxin 1
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination
  • Cefixime
  • Tetracycline
  • Cefotaxime