Aspects of Bacterial Resistance to Silver
Sammanfattning: Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has increased rapidly within recent years, and it has become a serious threat to public health. Infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria entail higher morbidity, mortality, and a burden to health care systems. The use of biocides, including silver compounds, may affect the resistance to both biocides and antibiotics and, thereby, can be a driving factor in this development.The aim of the following thesis was to investigate the frequency of silver resistance and the effects of silver exposure on bacterial populations being of clinical significance and from geographically different parts of the world. Furthermore, it explored the genetic background of silver resistance, and if silver could select directly or indirectly for antibiotic resistance.By a range of methods, from culture in broth to whole genome sequencing, bacterial populations from humans, birds and from the environment were characterized.The studies showed that sil genes, encoding silver resistance, occurred at a high frequency. Sil genes were found in 48 % of Enterobacter spp., in 41 % of Klebsiella spp. and in 21 % of all human Escherichia coli isolates with production of certain types of extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (CTX-M-14 and CTX-M-15). In contrast, silver resistance was not found in bird isolates or in bacterial species, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Legionella spp., with wet environments as their natural habitat. One silver-resistant Enterobacter cloacae strain was isolated from a chronic leg ulcer after only three weeks of treatment with silver-based dressings. The in-vivo effects of these dressings were limited, and they failed to eradicate both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. The activity of silver nitrate in vitro was bacteriostatic on Gram-positive species such as S. aureus and bactericidal on Gram-negative species. In Enterobacteriaceae, sil genes were associated with silver resistance phenotypes in all but one case. Using whole genome sequencing, single nucleotide polymorphisms in the silS gene were discovered after silver exposure in isolates with expressed silver resistance. This resistance could co-select for resistance to beta-lactams, co-trimoxazole and gentamicin.The findings of this thesis indicate that silver exposure may cause phenotypic silver resistance, and it may reduce the susceptibility to mainly beta-lactams and select for bacteria with resistance to clinically important antibiotics.
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