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Genes Nutr. 2011 Aug;6(3):275-84. doi: 10.1007/s12263-011-0226-x. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

Antibiotic resistance determinants in the interplay between food and gut microbiota.

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INRAN, National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition, Via Ardeatina 546, 00178, Rome, Italy.


A complex and heterogeneous microflora performs sugar and lactic acid fermentations in food products. Depending on the fermentable food matrix (dairy, meat, vegetable etc.) as well as on the species composition of the microbiota, specific combinations of molecules are produced that confer unique flavor, texture, and taste to each product. Bacterial populations within such "fermented food microbiota" are often of environmental origin, they persist alive in foods ready for consumption, eventually reaching the gastro-intestinal tract where they can interact with the resident gut microbiota of the host. Although this interaction is mostly of transient nature, it can greatly contribute to human health, as several species within the food microbiota also display probiotic properties. Such an interplay between food and gut microbiota underlines the importance of the microbiological quality of fermented foods, as the crowded environment of the gut is also an ideal site for genetic exchanges among bacteria. Selection and spreading of antibiotic resistance genes in foodborne bacteria has gained increasing interest in the past decade, especially in light of the potential transferability of antibiotic resistance determinants to opportunistic pathogens, natural inhabitants of the human gut but capable of acquiring virulence in immunocompromised individuals. This review aims at describing major findings and future prospects in the field, especially after the use of antibiotics as growth promoters was totally banned in Europe, with special emphasis on the application of genomic technologies to improve quality and safety of fermented foods.

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