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A new Oxford University study released during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week has significant findings on how antimicrobial resistance (AMR) arises and persists. The results, published today in Nature Communications, provide the first direct evidence of AMR bacteria migrating from a patient’s gut microbiome to the lungs, increasing the risk of deadly infections.

Cells of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria © S. Booth

According to the research team, led by Oxford University’s Department of Biology, applying these findings could save lives, as it highlights the importance of preventing pathogenic bacteria from translocating from the gut to other organs where they can cause serious infections.

The study was conducted on a patient that carried the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa as part of their gut microbiome. This species is one of the leading causes of infections in hospitals, and one that is particularly good at resisting antibiotics. Whilst Pseudomonas is generally not considered to be dangerous when it is embedded in a healthy gut microbiome, it can cause serious infections in the lungs of hospitalized patients.

During their stay in hospital, the patient was treated with the antibiotic Meropenem for a suspected urinary tract infection (UTI). Meropenem treatment caused non-resistant bacteria in the gut and lung to be killed offand antibiotic resistant mutants of Pseudomonas were able to grow and proliferate. Pseudomonas was then found to translocate from the gut to the patient’s lungs during antibiotic treatment, where it evolved even higher levels of antibiotic resistance.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website

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