Selective compartments for resistant microorganisms in antibiotic gradients

Bioessays. 1997 Aug;19(8):731-6. doi: 10.1002/bies.950190814.


The development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics is one of the best documented examples of contemporary biological evolution. Variability in the mechanisms of resistance depends on the diversity of genotypes in the huge bacterial populations, and also on the diversity of selective pressures that are produced along the antibiotic concentration gradients formed in the highly compartmentalized human body during therapy. These antibiotic gradients can be conceived as comprising selective compartments, each one of them defined as the concentration able to select a particular genetic variant. In vitro experimental models confirm that some antibiotic resistant variants are selected only at certain selective concentrations of antibiotics. The correspondence between selective compartments and selectable variants could offer a way of describing more accurately the antibiotic selective landscapes and for taking measures to prevent the development of a major threat to the future of modern medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • beta-Lactam Resistance
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactamases