History of antibiotic adaptation influences microbial evolutionary dynamics during subsequent treatment

PLoS Biol. 2017 Aug 8;15(8):e2001586. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001586. eCollection 2017 Aug.


Antibiotic regimens often include the sequential changing of drugs to limit the development and evolution of resistance of bacterial pathogens. It remains unclear how history of adaptation to one antibiotic can influence the resistance profiles when bacteria subsequently adapt to a different antibiotic. Here, we experimentally evolved Pseudomonas aeruginosa to six 2-drug sequences. We observed drug order-specific effects, whereby adaptation to the first drug can limit the rate of subsequent adaptation to the second drug, adaptation to the second drug can restore susceptibility to the first drug, or final resistance levels depend on the order of the 2-drug sequence. These findings demonstrate how resistance not only depends on the current drug regimen but also the history of past regimens. These order-specific effects may allow for rational forecasting of the evolutionary dynamics of bacteria given knowledge of past adaptations and provide support for the need to consider the history of past drug exposure when designing strategies to mitigate resistance and combat bacterial infections.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / genetics*
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Melanins
  • pyomelanin