Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have figured out a key step in the transmission of antibiotic resistance from one Acinetobacter bacterium to another, insight that sheds light on how antibiotic resistance spreads through a hospital or community.
The findings, published online Jan. 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, open up a new strategy to safeguard our ability to treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. The research indicates that the effectiveness of current antibiotics may be somewhat preserved by curtailing the spread of antibiotic-resistance genes.
Problem - Superbugs - Antibiotics - Acinetobacter - Author
"The problem of superbugs that are resistant to all antibiotics is bigger than just Acinetobacter," said senior author Mario Feldman, PhD, an associate professor of molecular microbiology. "What are we going to do when antibiotics don't work anymore? We can look for new antibiotics, but bacteria will always find a way to develop resistance again. We have to stop resistance from spreading, too."
Acinetobacter strains carry the genetic blueprints for drug resistance on small loops of DNA called plasmids that come in two sizes. Big plasmids, which are prone to accumulating ever more antibiotic-resistance genes, carry the genetic instructions to build a needle-like appendage to insert copies of themselves into nearby bacteria. Small plasmids, which contain resistance genes against a single but important group of antibiotics known as carbapenems, lack their own distribution tools so they invade new bacteria by tagging along with the large plasmids.
Plasmids - World - Feldman - Plasmids - Elements
"Plasmids want to take over the world," Feldman said. "Plasmids are selfish genetic elements that just want to procreate as much as possible, and they co-opt bacteria to do that. That is scary for us because the plasmids are very efficient at collecting antibiotic resistance. So as they reproduce and infect more bacteria, they spread drug resistance."
The plasmids' reproductive strategy requires...
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