Strain-Specific Differences in the Amount of Shiga Toxin Released from Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157 following Exposure to Subinhibitory Concentrations of Antimicrobial Agents
There is no consensus regarding the benefit versus harm of antibiotic therapy for treatment of disease due to enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157. The effects in vitro of subinhibitory concentrations of 13 antimicrobial agents on the release of Shiga toxin (Stx) by three different Escherichia coli O157 strains expressing Stx 1 or Stx 2 either alone or in combination were investigated. The Stx-induced cell death of Vero cells was determined using a colorimetric assay based on the measurement of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) released into the supernatant from the cytosol of damaged cells. Growth of all O157 strains in broth cultures containing subinhibitory concentrations of cotrimoxazole, trimethoprim, azithromycin, or gentamicin was accompanied by a marked increase in the release of Stx. Exposure to cefixime, ceftriaxone, or erythromycin caused a marked increase in the release of Stx by the O157 strain producing Stx 2 alone, but decreased toxin production was observed with the Stx 1 producer and the strain producing Stx 1 and Stx 2. Exposure to ampicillin caused increased Stx release in the Stx 2-producing strain but had no effect on Stx production in the other two test isolates. Exposure to penicillin G, streptomycin, ciprofloxacin, fosfomycin, or sulfamethoxazole caused an increase in toxin production in two of the three test strains in each case, while decreases were observed for the other isolates. The response of Escherichia coli O157 isolates to subinhibitory concentrations of antibiotics seems to be highly dependent on the nature of the strain involved.