Residence of Streptococcus Pneumoniae and Moraxella Catarrhalis Within Polymicrobial Biofilm Promotes Antibiotic Resistance and Bacterial Persistence in Vivo

Pathog Dis. 2014 Apr;70(3):280-8. doi: 10.1111/2049-632X.12129. Epub 2014 Feb 3.


Otitis media (OM) is an extremely common pediatric ailment caused by opportunists that reside within the nasopharynx. Inflammation within the upper airway can promote ascension of these opportunists into the middle ear chamber. OM can be chronic/recurrent in nature, and a wealth of data indicates that in these cases, the bacteria persist within biofilms. Epidemiological data demonstrate that most cases of OM are polymicrobial, which may have significant impact on antibiotic resistance. In this study, we used in vitro biofilm assays and rodent infection models to examine the impact of polymicrobial infection with Moraxella catarrhalis and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) on biofilm resistance to antibiotic treatment and persistence in vivo. Consistent with prior work, M. catarrhalis conferred beta-lactamase-dependent passive protection from beta-lactam killing to pneumococci within polymicrobial biofilms. Moreover, pneumococci increased resistance of M. catarrhalis to macrolide killing in polymicrobial biofilms. However, pneumococci increased colonization in vivo by M. catarrhalis in a quorum signal-dependent manner. We also found that co-infection with M. catarrhalis affects middle ear ascension of pneumococci in both mice and chinchillas. Therefore, we conclude that residence of M. catarrhalis and pneumococci within the same biofilm community significantly impacts resistance to antibiotic treatment and bacterial persistence in vivo.

Keywords: antibiotic; biofilm; otitis; persistence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Azithromycin / pharmacology
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Chinchilla
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial* / genetics
  • Mice
  • Microbial Interactions
  • Moraxella catarrhalis / drug effects
  • Moraxella catarrhalis / physiology*
  • Nasopharynx / microbiology
  • Otitis Media / drug therapy
  • Otitis Media / microbiology
  • Quorum Sensing
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / drug effects
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / physiology*
  • beta-Lactamases / genetics
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Azithromycin
  • beta-Lactamases