Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb 5;22(4):1628. doi: 10.3390/ijms22041628.
The occurrence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) persisters, including viable but non-culturable (VBNC) forms, subpopulations of tolerant cells that can survive high antibiotic doses, is the main reason for PA lung infections failed eradication and recurrence in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients, subjected to life-long, cyclic antibiotic treatments. In this paper, we investigated the role of subinhibitory concentrations of different anti-pseudomonas antibiotics in the maintenance of persistent (including VBNC) PA cells in in vitro biofilms. Persisters were firstly selected by exposure to high doses of antibiotics and their abundance over time evaluated, using a combination of cultural, qPCR and flow cytometry assays. Two engineered GFP-producing PA strains were used. The obtained results demonstrated a major involvement of tobramycin and bacterial cell wall-targeting antibiotics in the resilience to starvation of VBNC forms, while the presence of ciprofloxacin and ceftazidime/avibactam lead to their complete loss. Moreover, a positive correlation between tobramycin exposure, biofilm production and c-di-GMP levels was observed. The presented data could allow a deeper understanding of bacterial population dynamics during the treatment of recurrent PA infections and provide a reliable evaluation of the real efficacy of the antibiotic treatments against the bacterial population within the CF lung.