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Bioessays. 2014 Dec;36(12):1179-84. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400128. Epub 2014 Sep 11.

Forces shaping the antibiotic resistome.

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M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.


Antibiotic resistance has become a problem of global scale. Resistance arises through mutation or through the acquisition of resistance gene(s) from other bacteria in a process called horizontal gene transfer (HGT). While HGT is recognized as an important factor in the dissemination of resistance genes in clinical pathogens, its role in the environment has been called into question by a recent study published in Nature. The authors found little evidence of HGT in soil using a culture-independent functional metagenomics approach, which is in contrast to previous work from the same lab showing HGT between the environment and human microbiome. While surprising at face value, these results may be explained by the lack of selective pressure in the environment studied. Importantly, this work suggests the need for careful monitoring of environmental antibiotic pollution and stringent antibiotic stewardship in the fight against resistance.


antibiotic resistance; functional metagenomics; horizontal gene transfer; resistome

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