Efflux-mediated antimicrobial resistance

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2005 Jul;56(1):20-51. doi: 10.1093/jac/dki171. Epub 2005 May 24.


Antibiotic resistance continues to plague antimicrobial chemotherapy of infectious disease. And while true biocide resistance is as yet unrealized, in vitro and in vivo episodes of reduced biocide susceptibility are common and the history of antibiotic resistance should not be ignored in the development and use of biocidal agents. Efflux mechanisms of resistance, both drug specific and multidrug, are important determinants of intrinsic and/or acquired resistance to these antimicrobials, with some accommodating both antibiotics and biocides. This latter raises the spectre (as yet generally unrealized) of biocide selection of multiple antibiotic-resistant organisms. Multidrug efflux mechanisms are broadly conserved in bacteria, are almost invariably chromosome-encoded and their expression in many instances results from mutations in regulatory genes. In contrast, drug-specific efflux mechanisms are generally encoded by plasmids and/or other mobile genetic elements (transposons, integrons) that carry additional resistance genes, and so their ready acquisition is compounded by their association with multidrug resistance. While there is some support for the latter efflux systems arising from efflux determinants of self-protection in antibiotic-producing Streptomyces spp. and, thus, intended as drug exporters, increasingly, chromosomal multidrug efflux determinants, at least in Gram-negative bacteria, appear not to be intended as drug exporters but as exporters with, perhaps, a variety of other roles in bacterial cells. Still, given the clinical significance of multidrug (and drug-specific) exporters, efflux must be considered in formulating strategies/approaches to treating drug-resistant infections, both in the development of new agents, for example, less impacted by efflux and in targeting efflux directly with efflux inhibitors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aminoglycosides / pharmacokinetics
  • Aminoglycosides / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Biological Transport
  • Chloramphenicol / pharmacokinetics
  • Chloramphenicol / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Fluoroquinolones / pharmacokinetics
  • Fluoroquinolones / pharmacology
  • Tetracycline / pharmacokinetics
  • Tetracycline / pharmacology


  • Aminoglycosides
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Tetracycline