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Pathology. 2015 Apr;47(3):276-84. doi: 10.1097/PAT.0000000000000237.

Resistance mechanisms in Enterobacteriaceae.

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Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, The University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital and Westmead Millennium Institute, Westmead, NSW, Australia.


Enterobacteriaceae are responsible for a large proportion of serious, life-threatening infections and resistance to multiple antibiotics in these organisms is an increasing global public health problem. Mutations in chromosomal genes contribute to antibiotic resistance, but Enterobacteriaceae are adapted to sharing genetic material and much important resistance is due to 'mobile' resistance genes. Different mobile genetic elements, which have different characteristics, are responsible for capturing these genes from the chromosomes of a variety of bacterial species and moving them between DNA molecules. If transferred to plasmids, these resistance genes are then able to be transferred 'horizontally' between different bacterial cells, including different species, and well as being transferred 'vertically' during cell division. Carriage of several resistance genes on the same plasmid enables a bacterial cell to acquire multi-resistance in a single step and means that spread of one resistance gene may be co-selected for by use of antibiotics other than those to which it confers resistance. Many different mobile genes conferring resistance to each class of antibiotic have been identified, complicating detection of the factors responsible for a particular resistance phenotype, especially when changes in chromosomal genes may also confer or contribute to resistance. Understanding the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, and the means by which these mechanisms can evolve and disseminate, is important for developing ways to efficiently track the spread of resistance and to optimise treatment.

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