Assessment of Long-Term Macrolide Exposure on the Oropharyngeal Microbiome and Macrolide Resistance in Healthy Adults and Consequences for Onward Transmission of Resistance

Lucy D. Burr, Steven L. Taylor, Alyson Richard, Veronika Schreiber, Stevie Lingman, Megan Martin, Lito E. Papanicolas, Jocelyn M. Choo, Geraint B. Rogers

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6 Citations (Scopus)


While the use of long-term macrolide therapy to prevent exacerbations in chronic respiratory diseases is widespread, its impact on the oropharyngeal microbiota and macrolide resistance, and the potential for onward transmission of resistance to close contacts are poorly understood. We determined the effects of long-term exposure to azithromycin or erythromycin on phenotypic and genotypic macrolide resistance within the oropharyngeal microbiome of healthy adults and their close contacts in a randomized, single-blinded, parallel-group trial of 4 weeks of twice-daily oral 400 mg erythromycin ethylsuccinate or twice-daily oral 125 mg azithromycin. Using oropharyngeal swabs collected from 20 index healthy adults and 20 paired close contacts, the oropharyngeal microbial composition and macrolide resistance in streptococci were assessed by 16S rRNA sequencing and antibiotic susceptibility testing of oropharyngeal cultures, respectively, at baseline and weeks 4 and 8 (washout). Targeted quantitative PCR of antibiotic resistance genes was performed to evaluate paired changes in resistance gene levels in index patients and close contacts and to relate the potential transmission of antibiotic resistance. Neither azithromycin nor erythromycin altered oropharyngeal microbiota characteristics significantly. Proportional macrolide resistance in oropharyngeal streptococci increased with both erythromycin and azithromycin, remaining above baseline levels for the azithromycin group at washout. Levels of resistance genes increased significantly with azithromycin[erm(B) and mef] and erythromycin (mef), returning to baseline levels at washout only for the erythromycin group. We found no evidence of onward transmission of resistance to close contacts, as indicated by the lack of concomitant changes in resistance gene levels detected in close contacts. (This study has been registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry under identifier ACTRN12617000278336.)

Original languageEnglish
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Apr 2022


  • antibiotic resistance genes
  • antibiotic resistance transmission
  • azithromycin
  • erythromycin
  • healthy adults
  • macrolides
  • oropharyngeal microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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