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A new study published in The Lancet Microbe has found that the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes between different bacteria is considerably more widespread than previously thought.

Hand with gloves showing a sort of antibiotics and a laboratory plate with fungi © TopMicrobialStock, Getty Images.

Researchers at the Ineos Oxford Institute for antimicrobial research (IOI) at Oxford University and Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China have developed a new approach, called culture-independent conjugation, to study the transmission of plasmids between bacteria sampled from hospital wastewater.

Plasmids are small circular pieces of DNA that move between neighbouring bacteria (the ‘donor’ bacteria giving the plasmid and the ‘recipient’ bacteria receiving the plasmid) in a process called conjugation. Plasmids containing antibiotic resistance genes are a major driver of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including resistance against carbapenem- a ‘last-resort’ antibiotic. Carbapenem-resistant bacteria are thought to cause between 50 000 and 100 000 deaths worldwide each year

Up until now, conjugation has been mainly measured with pure cultures containing only one species of bacteria. This has limited understanding of how AMR spreads in bacterial communities in humans, animals, and the environment.


Read the full story on the University of Oxford website.