Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest challenges to global health. This week marks World Antibiotic Awareness Week which aims to increase awareness and understanding of global antibiotic resistance. Below you will find a selection of recent papers, and one not so recent, on the subject of antimicrobial resistance.
This Biology Letters review explores the role of wild animals in the spread of antimicrobial resistance, such as how wildlife might acquire and transport antimicrobial resistance and the potential for them to pass it on to humans and livestock. The paper considers how new tools such as animal tracking devices and high-throughput sequencing of resistant genes should be integrated with existing methods to understand how wildlife maintains and disperses antimicrobial resistance now and in the future.
A paper from 1980…
Today we are more aware than ever about the threat of antimicrobial resistance to global health, but what was the outlook almost 40 years ago, before the invention of PCR, before the internet existed and before we were able to sequence the human genome? This paper published in 1980 called ‘Fresh approaches to antibiotic production’ discusses the reasons why new antibiotics are needed and suggests that “knowledge of gene cloning techniques should soon accrue and can be expected to have profound effects on the manipulation of genetics to microbiology”.
Our knowledge and understanding of genetic manipulation has indeed accumulated over the past several decades, revolutionising the fields of molecular biology, genetics, genome biology and microbiology, and giving us techniques such as next-generation sequencing, quantitative PCR and ChIP-based methodologies. This perspective published in Open Biology suggests a new way of measuring the antimicrobial resistance crisis; tracking resistance gene frequency across the environment so that early resistance can be detected and managed at an earlier stage, a monitoring system that would not have been possible in the 80s.
Earlier this year one of our themed Philosophical Transactions B issues was on the dramatic development of new concepts and approaches to microbiology, and in particular bacteriology, over the last 20 years. The issue followed a Discussion Meeting held at the Royal Society and covered four mains areas: bacterial evolution and diversity; the social life of bacteria; advance in bacterial cell biology; and infection and drug resistance. All the papers form the issue are currently free to access — you can read them here.
The SOS pathway is a classic bacterial stress-response that is induced by damage to DNA caused by a range of stressors, including antibiotics. During such conditions mutagenesis is elevated, but the reason for this is unknown. This study, published in Proceedings B, looks into the evolutionary importance of the SOS stress response by measuring short-term fitness and long-term adaptation of a pathogenic bacterium exposed to an antibiotic. The results suggest that mutagenesis is an unwanted side effect of the stress response and not a selected attribute of the pathway, which means that blocking the SOS pathway may not prove a suitable strategy for improving antibiotic resistance in the long-term.