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Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2003 Jun;24(6):519-26.

Horizontal gene transfer-emerging multidrug resistance in hospital bacteria.

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Institute Rudjer Boskovic, Department of Molecular Genetics, Bijenicka c54, 1002 Zagreb, Croatia.


The frequency and spectrum of antibiotic resistant infections have increased worldwide during the past few decades. This increase has been attributed to a combination of microbial characteristics, the selective pressure of antimicrobial use, and social and technical changes that enhance the transmission of resistant organisms. The resistance is acquired by mutational change or by the acquisition of resistance-encoding genetic material which is transferred from another bacteria. The spread of antibiotic resistance genes may be causally related to the overuse of antibiotics in human health care and in animal feeds, increased use of invasive devices and procedures, a greater number of susceptible hosts, and lapses in infection control practices leading to increased transmission of resistant organisms. The resistance gene sequences are integrated by recombination into several classes of naturally occurring gene expression cassettes and disseminated within the microbial population by horizontal gene transfer mechanisms: transformation, conjugation or transduction. In the hospital, widespread use of antimicrobials in the intensive care units (ICU) and for immunocompromised patients has resulted in the selection of multidrug-resistant organisms. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococci, vancomycin resistant Enterococci and extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) producing Gram negative bacilli are identified as major problem in nosocomial infections. Recent surveillance studies have demonstrated trend towards more seriously ill patients suffering from multidrug-resistant nosocomial infections. Emergence of multiresistant bacteria and spread of resistance genes should enforce the application of strict prevention strategies, including changes in antibiotic treatment regimens, hygiene measures, infection prevention and control of horizontal nosocomial transmission of organisms.

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