Study discovers over 6,000 antibiotic resistance genes in the bacteria that inhabit the human gut

November 30, 2018, University of Birmingham
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A study carried out in collaboration with the University of Birmingham has used an innovative approach to identify thousands of antibiotic resistance genes found in bacteria that inhabit the human gut.

The is home to trillions of microorganisms, mainly bacteria. Most of these are sensitive to antibiotics, but a significant number of bacteria in the human gut have mechanisms that make them resistant to antibiotics. However, we still lack a mechanistic understanding of the genes that confer resistance to antibiotics in gut bacteria.

A team of researchers, led by the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)in France, in collaboration with Professor Willem van Schaik at the University of Birmingham, developed a new method to identify resistance genes in gut bacteria by comparing the three-dimensional structures of known antibiotic resistance enzymes to the proteins that are produced by gut bacteria.

The researchers, in with other European teams, then applied this method to a catalogue of several million genes of the gut. Thanks to this method, they have identified more than 6,000 that are very different from previously identified genes in .

Professor Willem van Schaik, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Microbiology and Infection, said: "Most gut bacteria live in a harmless relationship with the . However, the gut is also home to bacteria that can cause infections in hospitalised patients.

"Unfortunately, these bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and we need to understand the processes that contribute to this development.

"By comparing the structures of known antibiotic resistance proteins to proteins that are produced by the bacteria of the human gut, we found thousands of new antibiotic resistance genes in the human gut, highlighting the immense diversity of antibiotic resistance genes in this environment.

"Most of these genes appeared to be present in bacteria that live in a harmless relationship with the human host, so may not be an immediate threat to human health.

"However, the continuing use of antibiotics may lead to these resistance genes being transferred to pathogenic , thereby further reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating infections."

Explore further: Supermarket produce harbors antibiotic-resistance genes

More information: Etienne Ruppé et al, Prediction of the intestinal resistome by a three-dimensional structure-based method, Nature Microbiology (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41564-018-0292-6

Related Stories

Supermarket produce harbors antibiotic-resistance genes

November 6, 2018

Researchers from the Julius Kühn Institut, Germany have found that produce is a reservoir for transferable antibiotic resistance genes that often escape traditional molecular detection methods. These antibiotic resistance ...

Fish food for marine farms harbor antibiotic resistance genes

August 30, 2017

From isolated caves to ancient permafrost, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes for resistance have been showing up in unexpected places. As scientists puzzle over how genes for antibiotic resistance arise in various environments ...

Recommended for you

Computing the origin of life

December 14, 2018

As a principal investigator in the NASA Ames Exobiology Branch, Andrew Pohorille is searching for the origin of life on Earth, yet you won't find him out in the field collecting samples or in a laboratory conducting experiments ...

Black widow spiders dial up posture for survival and sex

December 14, 2018

A new study led by Western University's Natasha Mhatre shows that body dynamics and posture are crucial to how black widow spiders decode the important vibrations that travel through their webs and up their legs. Black widows ...

To repair DNA damage, plants need good contractors

December 13, 2018

When a building is damaged, a general contractor often oversees various subcontractors—framers, electricians, plumbers and drywall hangers—to ensure repairs are done in the correct order and on time.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.