Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacteriophages mobilize the antibiotic resistance of bacteria in the environment

Date:
October 28, 2011
Source:
Universidad de Barcelona
Summary:
The role of bacteriophages -- viruses that infect bacteria -- could be crucial in the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes between bacteria, and this process could favor the emergence of resistant bacterial strains in the natural environment.

Electron micrographs of bacteriophages present in sewage and river water. The role of bacteriophages could be crucial in the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes between bacteria.
Credit: Marta Colomer-Lluch et al, PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017549

The role of bacteriophages -- viruses that infect bacteria -- could be crucial in the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes between bacteria, and this process could favour the emergence of resistant bacterial strains in the natural environment.

This is one of the main conclusions of an article published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy by the researchers Maite Muniesa, Joan Jofre, Marta Colomer-Lluch and Lejla Imamovic, from the Generalitat-supported Health-Related Water Microbiology (MARS) Research Group, part of the Department of Microbiology at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona.

Antibiotic resistance, a global problem

Antibiotic resistance, which is the focus of the World Health Organization's 2011 World Health Day, is caused by multiple factors, including antimicrobial abuse and acquisition of resistance genes. It is currently believed that the origin of some forms of resistance lies in the transfer of genes between microorganisms in the natural environment.

"Resistance to antibiotics is one of the main problems encountered in the treatment of infectious diseases across the world," explain the lecturer Maite Muniesa, from the UB's Department of Microbiology. "Traditionally, most scientific studies of multi-resistance genes have focused on plasmids, which are circular, covalently closed DNA molecules that act as the principal vehicle for inter-bacterial gene transmission."

The article focuses on samples of faecal waste from different animals (cattle, pigs and poultry) from farms in Catalonia, some of which have not been treated with antibiotics. Specifically, the experts behind the study analyse the horizontal transfer of pathogenicity genes between enteric bacteria by bacteriophages: the genes blaTEM and blaCTX-M,involved in resistance to betalactamic antibiotics, and mecA,associated withmethicillin resistance in staphylococci, which are responsible for a large proportion of hospital infections.

Bacteriophages as messengers

It is clearly described in scientific literature that bacteriophages are highly efficient vectors for the inter-cellular transfer of DNA fragments. But what role do phages play in the emergence of new bacterial resistances? As a step towards answering this question, the study shows for the first time that bacteriophages contain antibiotic resistance genes and are potentially excellent vehicles for the propagation of bacterial resistance genes in the environment.

As professor Joan Jofre notes, "bacteriophages facilitate the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes between different biomes, and the potential scope of this process in the natural environment has not yet been described." In their role as mobilizers of antimicrobial resistance genes, explains Maite Muniesa, "bacteriophages are more durable than plasmids and, surprisingly, can be found in high concentrations in the natural environment. What we need to do now is identify the types of viruses that are transferring the resistance genes between bacteria."

New resistances, new scientific challenges

Antibiotic resistances detected in the clinical setting are also genetically present in bacteria found in the natural environment. Despite the numerous measures taken to control the use of antibiotics in agriculture, new forms of antimicrobial resistance continue to emerge. According to experts, the evidence suggests that the appearance of new resistances is not simply the result of selective pressure from antibiotics but is also due to the mobilization of resistance genes in the environment, a natural process in which the biological role of phages cannot be ignored.

The new study brings an ecological perspective to the problem and defines the boundaries that restrict the emergence of new antimicrobial resistances in the natural environment. Moving forwards, this research area could contribute to the detection of resistances that have not been described in the clinical setting and, by extension, broaden research into new antimicrobial agents. "In the field of antimicrobial resistance, we must remember that there are many factors to consider which are not being taken into account. For example, certain antibiotic treatments targeting bacteria are also capable of activating the mobilization of different types of genes by bacteriophages. In this field of research, it is something that must be given particular consideration," warns professor Joan Jofre.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universidad de Barcelona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. M. Colomer-Lluch, L. Imamovic, J. Jofre, M. Muniesa. Bacteriophages Carrying Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Fecal Waste from Cattle, Pigs, and Poultry. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 2011; 55 (10): 4908 DOI: 10.1128/AAC.00535-11
  2. Marta Colomer-Lluch, Juan Jofre, Maite Muniesa. Antibiotic Resistance Genes in the Bacteriophage DNA Fraction of Environmental Samples. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (3): e17549 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017549

Cite This Page:

Universidad de Barcelona. "Bacteriophages mobilize the antibiotic resistance of bacteria in the environment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111028082007.htm>.
Universidad de Barcelona. (2011, October 28). Bacteriophages mobilize the antibiotic resistance of bacteria in the environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111028082007.htm
Universidad de Barcelona. "Bacteriophages mobilize the antibiotic resistance of bacteria in the environment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111028082007.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins