The penetration of antibiotics into aggregates of mucoid and non-mucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa

J Gen Microbiol. 1989 May;135(5):1291-303. doi: 10.1099/00221287-135-5-1291.


Cells of mucoid and non-mucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa in colonies were at least one-thousandfold less sensitive to the antibiotics tobramycin or cefsulodin than were cells of the same bacteria in dispersed suspension. We did not detect any difference between the mucoid form and the non-mucoid form in the antibiotic sensitivity of colonies, from which we infer that the exopolysaccharide of the mucoid form does not contribute to colony-resistance by forming a barrier to antibiotic diffusion. Mathematical models were constructed in order to estimate time-courses of penetration of tobramycin and cefsulodin into biofilms and microcolonies of mucoid and non-mucoid P. aeruginosa. For tobramycin penetration, adsorption of antibiotic to the exopolysaccharide of the glycocalyx and antibiotic uptake by cells were taken into account in the calculations. The longest time-period for the concentration of tobramycin at the base of a biofilm 100 micron deep to rise to 90% of the concentration outside the biofilm was predicted to be 2.4 h. For cefsulodin penetration, irreversible hydrolysis catalysed by beta-lactamase was taken into account, using beta-lactamase levels taken from the literature. The calculations predicted that the cefsulodin concentration at the base of a biofilm 100 micron deep would rise to 90% of the external concentration in 29 s when the beta-lactamase was synthesized at the basal level. For a similar biofilm of bacteria synthesizing enhanced levels of beta-lactamase ('derepressed'), the concentration of cefsulodin at the base was calculated to rise to 41% of the external concentration in about 50 s and then remain at that level. This was despite the fact that cefsulodin is a poor substrate for this beta-lactamase.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Cefsulodin / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Cephalosporinase / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / ultrastructure
  • Tobramycin / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Cephalosporinase
  • Cefsulodin
  • Tobramycin