Formation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa inhibition zone during tobramycin disk diffusion is due to transition from planktonic to biofilm mode of growth

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Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 (tobramycin MIC = 0.064 µg/mL) was used to perform agar diffusion tests employing tobramycin-containing tablets. Bacterial growth and formation of inhibition zones were studied by stereomicroscopy and by blotting with microscope slides and staining with methylene blue, Alcian blue and a fluorescent lectin for the P. aeruginosa PSL, which was studied by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Diffusion of tobramycin from the deposit was modelled using a 3D geometric version of Fick's second law of diffusion. The time-dependent gradual increase in the minimum biofilm eradication concentration (MBEC) was studied using a Calgary Biofilm Device. The early inhibition zone was visible after 5 h of incubation. The corresponding calculated tobramycin concentration at the border was 1.9 µg/mL, which increased to 3.2 µg/mL and 6.3 µg/mL after 7 h and 24 h, respectively. The inhibition zone increased to the stable final zone after 7 h of incubation. Bacterial growth and small aggregate formation (young biofilms) took place inside the inhibition zone until the small aggregates contained less than ca. 64 cells and production of polysaccharide matrix including PSL had begun; thereafter, the small bacterial aggregates were killed by tobramycin. Bacteria at the border of the stable inhibition zone and beyond continued to grow to a mature biofilm and produced large amount of polysaccharide-containing matrix. Formation of the inhibition zone during agar diffusion antimicrobial susceptibility testing is due to a switch from a planktonic to biofilm mode of growth and gives clinically important information about the increased antimicrobial tolerance of biofilms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Antimicrobial Agents
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)564-573
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Agar diffusion, Antimicrobial susceptibility testing, Biofilm, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Tobramycin

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