Pre-exposure to azithromycin enhances gonococcal resilience to subsequent ciprofloxacin exposure: an in vitro study: an in vitro study

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Background: The effect of sequential exposure to different antibiotics is an underexplored topic. Azithromycin can be detected in humans for up to 28 days post-ingestion and may prime bacterial responses to subsequently ingested antibiotics. Methods: In this in vitro study, we assessed if preexposure to azithromycin could accelerate the acquisition of resistance to ciprofloxacin in Neisseria gonorrhoeae reference strain, WHO-F. In a morbidostat, we set two conditions in 3 vials each: mono-exposure (preexposure to Gonococcal Broth followed by exposure to ciprofloxacin) and dual sequential exposure (preexposure to azithromycin followed by exposure to ciprofloxacin).The growth of the cultures was measured by a software (MATLAB). The program decided if gonococcal broth or antibiotics were added to the vials in order to keep the evolution of the cultures. Samples were taken twice a week until the end of the experiment i.e. until resistance was achieved or cellular death. Additionally, six replicates of WHO-F WT and WHO-F with rplV mutation, caused by azithromycin, were exposed to increasing concentrations of ciprofloxacin in plates to assess if there were differences in the rate of resistance emergence. Results: We found that after 12 hours of pre-exposure to azithromycin, N. gonorrhoeae's resilience to ciprofloxacin exposure increased. Pre-exposure to azithromycin did not, however, accelerate the speed to acquisition of ciprofloxacin resistance. Conclusions: We found that azithromycin does not accelerate the emergence of ciprofloxacin resistance, but there were differences in the molecular pathways to the acquisition of ciprofloxacin resistance: the strains preexpossed to azithromycin followed a different route (GyrA: S91F pathway) than the ones without antibiotic preexposure (GyrA:D95N pathway). However, the number of isolates is too small to draw such strong conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1464
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Humans
  • Azithromycin/pharmacology
  • Ciprofloxacin/pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Gonorrhea/drug therapy
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents/pharmacology
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae


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