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Ups J Med Sci. 2014 May;119(2):68-77. doi: 10.3109/03009734.2014.901444. Epub 2014 Mar 30.

Emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance: setting a parameter space.

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Departamento de Biotecnología Microbiana, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC , Darwin 3, Cantoblanco, 28049, Madrid , Spain.


The emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance among human pathogens is a relevant problem for human health and one of the few evolution processes amenable to experimental studies. In the present review, we discuss some basic aspects of antibiotic resistance, including mechanisms of resistance, origin of resistance genes, and bottlenecks that modulate the acquisition and spread of antibiotic resistance among human pathogens. In addition, we analyse several parameters that modulate the evolution landscape of antibiotic resistance. Learning why some resistance mechanisms emerge but do not evolve after a first burst, whereas others can spread over the entire world very rapidly, mimicking a chain reaction, is important for predicting the evolution, and relevance for human health, of a given mechanism of resistance. Because of this, we propose that the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance can only be understood in a multi-parameter space. Measuring the effect on antibiotic resistance of parameters such as contact rates, transfer rates, integration rates, replication rates, diversification rates, and selection rates, for different genes and organisms, growing under different conditions in distinct ecosystems, will allow for a better prediction of antibiotic resistance and possibilities of focused interventions.


Antibiotic resistance; evolution; horizontal gene transfer; resistome

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