Hard-to-detect antibiotic resistance an underestimated clinical problem

phys.org | 2/11/2019 | Staff
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Even when antibiotics are used to treat bacteria susceptible to them, sometimes the antibiotic chosen is ineffective. One of the reasons for this is heteroresistance, a phenomenon explored in depth by Uppsala and Emory University researchers in a new study.

When a bacterial infection is suspected, samples are taken for analysis to assess whether the bacterium can be treated with (i.e. is susceptible to) antibiotics or not (i.e. is resistant), and what kind of antibiotic works. Heteroresistance means that while the majority of bacteria in the sample are susceptible to antibiotics, there is also a minor (less than 1 percent) antibiotic-resistant subpopulation that can grow despite treatment with antibiotics.

Research - Date - Mechanisms - Heteroresistance - Studies

No research to date has explained the underlying mechanisms of heteroresistance. As previous studies on humans and animals alike have shown, heteroresistance can make antibiotic treatment ineffective because the resistant subpopulation grows instead of being destroyed.

In an extensive study published in the journal Nature Microbiology, the Uppsala and Emory scientists investigated, first, how commonly heteroresistance is present in bacteria isolated from patients and, second, the underlying genetic mechanisms of heteroresistance. They surveyed the scale on which it was present in four bacteria species that cause infections in humans by exposing them to 28 different kinds of antibiotic. Surprisingly, the results showed that more than a quarter of the combinations of bacteria and antibiotics exhibited heteroresistance.

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(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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