JUN 17, 2017 9:42 AM PDT

Antibiotics & Resistance Come From the Same Place

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

When outbreaks occur, scientists trace them back to their source, revealing more about the pathogen and helping us to fight it. Investigators want to do the same with genes that spread resistance to antibiotics, which are expected to present serious challenges to public health in the coming years. Reporting in Nature Communications, scientists have found proof that genes that confer antibiotic resistance come from the same place that antibiotics themselves originate from.

Actinomycetes is in a plate. / Credit: DTU/DTU Biosustain

That has been a hypothesis for over 30 years, and now it has been confirmed. Work performed at The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability - DTU Biosustain - at Technical University of Denmark has shown that a phylum of bacteria called Actinobacteria give rise to antibiotics that end up treating three quarters of human infections. That group of bacteria also carries genes that enable resistance to antibiotics.

"It has been suspected that pathogens can obtain resistance genes from Actinobacteria for half a century. So now with the 100 percent identical genes we find the smoking gun," said Postdoctoral Fellow Xinglin Jiang of DTU Biosustain.

They also were intrigued to learn that many of the resistance genes carried by gram-negative pathogenic microbes had a high degree of similarity to the genes carried by Actinobacteria; in one example there was an exact match between the genes.

Related: New, Powerful Antibiotic Found in Soil

Because there is not much in common between Actinobacteria and the microbial pathogens, the scientists were not sure how the latter could be acquiring genes from the former. The sequence surrounding the genes revealed more when the investigators analyzed it. Using a novel mechanism called ‘carry back,’ the pathogen couples with the Actinobacteria in a type of ‘sex’ and takes up the resistance gene after the death of the bacteria.

Because Actinobacteria is present in soil everywhere, it’s entirely possible that pathogens encounter it on farms, in waste or anywhere soil is and can easily go through gene transfer. After acquiring a resistance gene, what was once a typical nasty pathogen is transformed into a potentially deadly microbe.

Uncovering the origins of resistance genes is essential to stopping the spread of antibiotic resistance, commented Tilmann Weber, senior researcher at DTU Biosustain. "We can't stop this gene transfer, but when you know, which resistance genes pathogens may harbor, you can personalize the antibiotic treatment. Also, with this knowledge you can try to develop new antibiotics with other properties that the pathogens don't have a defense against," Weber concluded.

 

Learn more about the process called conjugation, a kind of bacterial sex.

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via DTU Biosustain, Nature Communications

 

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 02, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
In Some Animals, Early Movements Can Have a Big Impact
OCT 02, 2022
In Some Animals, Early Movements Can Have a Big Impact
The Ikmi group at EMBL has shown that exercise has an important influence on the sea anemone.
OCT 05, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers Discover Muscle Disease Starts Earlier Than Thought
OCT 05, 2022
Researchers Discover Muscle Disease Starts Earlier Than Thought
People with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) start to experience symptoms in early childhood. The disease is caused by ...
OCT 14, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
The Precursor to ATP
OCT 14, 2022
The Precursor to ATP
  Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the essential energy molecule that drives our bodies. The cleavage of one of its ...
NOV 17, 2022
Neuroscience
Fluorescent Proteins Extend Blood Flow Tracking to Months in Mice
NOV 17, 2022
Fluorescent Proteins Extend Blood Flow Tracking to Months in Mice
Harmless, fluorescent proteins allow scientists to track blood flow in mice. The advance could help researchers monitor ...
NOV 23, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Living 'Crystals' Formed by Starfish Embryos
NOV 23, 2022
The Living 'Crystals' Formed by Starfish Embryos
Starfish embryos sprout appendages very early on in development, and they can spin around through water by propelling th ...
DEC 01, 2022
Neuroscience
'Silent' Synapses Found in the Adult Brain
DEC 01, 2022
'Silent' Synapses Found in the Adult Brain
This may be a way for the brain to learn new information without having to disrupt established, mature synapses.
Loading Comments...