Antibiotic Resistance

Nature Microbiology Publishes Article on Antibiotic Resistance

Robert Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, has published an article in the journal Nature Microbiology (April 11, 2016 issue).

Smith is the co-author of “Antibiotics as a Selective Drivers for Conjugation Dynamics,” based on research that presents implications for designing effective antibiotic treatment protocols and for assessing the risks of antibiotic use.

“The increasing incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria has threatened to undermine one of the greatest discoveries in medicine in the 20th Century,” according to the journal paper. “It is generally recognized that genes conferring antibiotic resistance spread via conjugation, where bacteria use specialized structures to transfer DNA between each other.

“Understanding this process is critical to stopping the flow of antibiotic resistant genes in the global microbial population. Many previous studies have found that that sheer presence of antibiotic substantially increases the rate at which conjugation occurs, thus making it easier for bacteria to acquire resistance.”

In this study, the research shows that this long held theory may not be correct in many circumstances.

“Instead, the antibiotic can promote growth for some, but not all, types of bacteria in a population, which in certain instances can favor conjugation. Overall, the study has implications for understanding the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes in the population and may force us to rethink the risks associate with antibiotic usage.”