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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2003 Oct;6(5):457-61.

Antibiotics and anaerobes of gut origin.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.


Hundreds of bacterial species make up human gut flora. Of these, 99% are anaerobic bacteria. Although anaerobes are part of the normal commensal flora, they can become opportunistic pathogens, causing serious, sometimes fatal infections if they escape from the colonic milieu. Most often, this escape occurs as a result of perforation, surgery, diverticulitis or cancer. Infections involving anaerobic bacteria are often difficult to treat because antibiotic resistance is increasing among the genera, mediated primarily through horizontal transfer of a plethora of mobile DNA transfer factors. Some of these transfer factors can also be transmitted to aerobic bacteria. It is becoming increasingly clear that antibiotic resistance trends have to be carefully monitored, and the transfer factors and mechanisms of transfer understood at a molecular level to avoid negative clinical outcomes when infections involve anaerobic bacteria.

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