Bacteria interact with a multitude of other organisms, many of which produce antimicrobials. Selection for resistance to these antimicrobials has the potential to result in resistance to clinical antibiotics when active compounds target the same bacterial pathways. The possibility of such cross-resistance between natural antimicrobials and antibiotics has to our knowledge received very little attention. The antimicrobial activity of extracts from seaweeds, known to be prolific producers of antimicrobials, is here tested against Staphylococcus aureus isolates with varied clinical antibiotic resistance profiles. An overall effect consistent with cross-resistance is demonstrated, with multidrug-resistant S. aureus strains being on average more resistant to seaweed extracts. This pattern could potentially indicate that evolution of resistance to antimicrobials in the natural environment could lead to resistance against clinical antibiotics. However, patterns of antimicrobial activity of individual seaweed extracts vary considerably and include collateral sensitivity, where increased resistance to a particular antibiotic is associated with decreased resistance to a particular seaweed extract. Our correlation-based methods allow the identification of antimicrobial extracts bearing most promise for downstream active compound identification and pharmacological testing.
Keywords: Antimicrobials; Staphylococcus aureus; antibiotic resistance; collateral sensitivity; cross‐resistance; seaweeds.