Bacterial fitness shapes the population dynamics of antibiotic-resistant and -susceptible bacteria in a model of combined antibiotic and anti-virulence treatment

Lucy Ternent, Rosemary J. Dyson, Anne-marie Krachler, Sara Jabbari

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Bacterial resistance to antibiotic treatment is a huge concern: introduction of any new antibiotic is shortly followed by the emergence of resistant bacterial isolates in the clinic. This issue is compounded by a severe lack of new antibiotics reaching the market. The significant rise in clinical resistance to antibiotics is especially problematic in nosocomial infections, where already vulnerable patients may fail to respond to treatment, causing even greater health concern. A recent focus has been on the development of anti-virulence drugs as a second line of defence in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections. This treatment, which weakens bacteria by reducing their virulence rather than killing them, should allow infections to be cleared through the body׳s natural defence mechanisms. In this way there should be little to no selective pressure exerted on the organism and, as such, a predominantly resistant population should be less likely to emerge. However, before the likelihood of resistance to these novel drugs emerging can be predicted, we must first establish whether such drugs can actually be effective. Many believe that anti-virulence drugs would not be powerful enough to clear existing infections, restricting their potential application to prophylaxis. We have developed a mathematical model that provides a theoretical framework to reveal the circumstances under which anti-virulence drugs may or may not be successful. We demonstrate that by harnessing and combining the advantages of antibiotics with those provided by anti-virulence drugs, given infection-specific parameters, it is possible to identify treatment strategies that would efficiently clear bacterial infections, while preventing the emergence of antibiotic-resistant subpopulations. Our findings strongly support the continuation of research into anti-virulence drugs and demonstrate that their applicability may reach beyond infection prevention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Early online date18 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2015


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Anti-virulence drugs
  • Mathematical Modelling


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