Crystal Gianvecchio, Natalie A. Lozano, Claire Henderson, Pooneh Kalhori, Austin Bullivant, Alondra Valencia, Lauren Su, Gladys Bello, Michele Wong, Emoni Cook, Lakjia Fuller, Jerome B. Neal III, and Pamela J. Yeh

Objectives: Understanding how phenotypic traits vary has been a longstanding goal of evolutionary biologists. When examining antibiotic-resistance in bacteria, it is generally understood that the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) has minimal variation specific to each bacterial strain-antibiotic combination. However, there is a less studied resistance trait, the mutant prevention concentration (MPC), which measures the MIC of the most resistant sub-population. Whether and how MPC varies has been poorly understood. Here, we ask a simple, yet important question: How much does the MPC vary, within a single strain-antibiotic association? Using a Staphylococcus species and five antibiotics from five different antibiotic classes—ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, gentamicin, nitrofurantoin, and oxacillin—we examined the frequency of resistance for a wide range of concentrations per antibiotic, and measured the repeatability of the MPC, the lowest amount of antibiotic that would ensure no surviving cells in a 1010 population of bacteria. Results: We found a wide variation within the MPC and distributions that were rarely normal. When antibiotic resistance evolved, the distribution of the MPC changed, with all distributions becoming wider and some multi-modal. Conclusions: Unlike the MIC, there is high variability in the MPC for a given bacterial strain-antibiotic combination.