Interaction networks, ecological stability, and collective antibiotic tolerance in polymicrobial infections

Marjon G.J. de Vos, Marcin Zagorski, Alan McNally, Tobias Bollenbach*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Polymicrobial infections constitute small ecosystems that accommodate several bacterial species. Commonly, these bacteria are investigated in isolation. However, it is unknown to what extent the isolates interact and whether their interactions alter bacterial growth and ecosystem resilience in the presence and absence of antibiotics. We quantified the complete ecological interaction network for 72 bacterial isolates collected from 23 individuals diagnosed with polymicrobial urinary tract infections and found that most interactions cluster based on evolutionary relatedness. Statistical network analysis revealed that competitive and cooperative reciprocal interactions are enriched in the global network, while cooperative interactions are depleted in the individual host community networks. A population dynamics model parameterized by our measurements suggests that interactions restrict community stability, explaining the observed species diversity of these communities. We further show that the clinical isolates frequently protect each other from clinically relevant antibiotics. Together, these results highlight that ecological interactions are crucial for the growth and survival of bacteria in polymicrobial infection communities and affect their assembly and resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10666-10671
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume114
Issue number40
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Antibiotics
  • Infection
  • Microbiology
  • Systems biology

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