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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2009 Jan;15 Suppl 1:20-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2008.02679.x.

Antibiotic resistance genes from the environment: a perspective through newly identified antibiotic resistance mechanisms in the clinical setting.

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Servicio de Microbiología, Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal and Departamento de Microbiología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain.


Soil bacteria may contain antibiotic resistance genes responsible for different mechanisms that permit them to overcome the natural antibiotics present in the environment. This gene pool has been recently named the 'resistome', and its components can be mobilized into the microbial community affecting humans because of the participation of genetic platforms that efficiently facilitate the mobilization and maintenance of these resistance genes. Evidence for this transference has been suggested or demonstrated with newly identified widespread genes in multidrug-resistant bacteria. These resistance genes include those responsible for ribosomal methylases affecting aminoglycosides (armA, rtmB), methyltransferases affecting linezolid (cfr) or plasmid-mediated efflux pumps conferring low-level fluoroquinolone resistance (qepA), all of which are associated with antibiotic-producing bacteria. In addition, resistance genes whose ancestors have been identified in environmental isolates that are not recognized as antibiotic producers have also been recently detected. These include the qnr and the bla(CTX) genes compromising the activity of fluoroquinolones and extended-spectrum cephalosporins, respectively. The application of metagenomic tools and phylogenetic analysis will facilitate future identification of other new resistance genes and their corresponding ancestors in environmental bacteria, and will enable further exploration of the concept of the resistome as being a unique reservoir of antibiotic resistance genes and genetic elements participating in resistance gene transfer.

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