The use of minimum selectable concentrations (MSCs) for determining the selection of antimicrobial resistant bacteria

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The use of antimicrobial compounds is indispensable in many industries, especially drinking water production, to eradicate microorganisms. However, bacterial growth is not unusual in the presence of disinfectant concentrations that would be typically lethal, as bacterial populations can develop resistance. The common metric of population resistance has been based on the Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC), which is based on bacteria lethality. However, sub-lethal concentrations may also select for resistant bacteria due to the differences in bacterial growth rates. This study determined the Minimal Selective Concentrations (MSCs) of bacterial populations exposed to free chlorine and monochloramine, representing a metric that possibly better reflects the selective pressures occurring at lower disinfectant levels than MIC. Pairs of phylogenetically similar bacteria were challenged to a range of concentrations of disinfectants. The MSCs of free chlorine and monochloramine were found to range between 0.021 and 0.39 mg L-1, which were concentrations 1/250 to 1/5 than the MICs of susceptible bacteria (MICsusc). This study indicates that sub-lethal concentrations of disinfectants could result in the selection of resistant bacterial populations, and MSCs would be a more sensitive indicator of selective pressure, especially in environmental systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-292
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Early online date2 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • minimal selective concentration (MSC)
  • drinking water
  • disinfectant
  • minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC)


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