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Antibiotic susceptibility of potentially probiotic Lactobacillus species.

  • Charteris, W P
  • Kelly, P M
  • Morelli, L
  • Collins, J K
Published Article
Journal of food protection
Publication Date
Dec 01, 1998
PMID: 9874341


In recent years, the time-honored reputation of lactobacilli as promoters of gastrointestinal and female urogenital health has been qualified. This has occurred due to a rare association with human infection in the presence of certain predisposing factors and their potential to act as a source of undesirable antibiotic resistance determinants to other members of the indigenous microbiota. This necessitates greater caution in their selection for use in microbial adjunct nutrition and disease management (prophylaxis and therapy). It was against this background that 46 Lactobacillus strains from human and dairy sources were assayed for susceptibility to 44 antibiotics. All strains were resistant to a group of 14 antibiotics, which included inhibitors of cell wall synthesis (cefoxitin [30 microg] and aztreonam [30 microg]), protein synthesis (amikacin [30 microg], gentamicin [10 microg], kanamycin [30 microg], and streptomycin [10 microg]), nucleic acid synthesis (norfloxacin [10 microg], nalidixic acid [30 microg], sulphamethoxazole [100 microg], trimethoprim [5 microg], co-trimoxazole [25 microg], and metronidazole [5 microg]), and cytoplasmic membrane function (polymyxin B [300 microg] and colistin sulphate [10 microg]). All strains were susceptible to tetracycline (30 microg), chloramphenicol (30 microg), and rifampicin (5 microg). Four human strains and one dairy strain exhibited atypical resistance to a penicillin, bacitracin (10 microg), and/or nitrofurantoin (300 microg). One human strain was also resistant to erythromycin (15 microg) and clindamycin (2 microg). These resistances may have been acquired due to antibiotic exposure in vivo, but conclusive evidence is lacking in this regard. Seven microorganism-drug combinations were evaluated for beta-lactamase activity using synergy and nitrocefin tests. The absence of activity suggested that cell wall impermeability appeared responsible for beta-lactam resistance. The occurrence of a minority of lactobacilli with undesirable, atypical resistance to certain antibiotics demonstrates that not all strains are suitable for use as probiotics or bacteriotherapeutic agents. The natural resistance of lactobacilli to a wide range of clinically important antibiotics may enable the development of antibiotic/probiotic combination therapies for such conditions as diarrhea, female urogenital tract infection, and infective endocarditis.

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