This is how antibiotic resistance spreads in bacterial populations - healing practice

This is how antibiotic resistant genes spread between bacteria

Now, for the first time, the structure of the transport apparatus that allows antibiotic resistance genes to spread between bacteria has been revealed. A better understanding of the spread of these antibiotic resistant genes could help stop or at least curb the spread of antibiotic resistant microorganisms in the future.

A new study involving experts from University College London (UCL) has analyzed how so-called bacterial conjugation enables the unidirectional transfer of DNA from a donor cell to a recipient cell. This is the main route by which antibiotic resistance genes spread in bacterial populations.

The results of the corresponding study were published in the English-language journal "Nature".

Why antibiotic resistance is increasing

The researchers point out that the increase in antibiotic resistance poses a serious threat to all of humanity. Antimicrobial resistance is a natural phenomenon, but it is amplified by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals.

According to experts from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), each use of antibiotics already promotes the development of resistance. Indeed, non-resistant bacteria do not survive such treatment, while resistant bacteria survive and continue to multiply.

It therefore makes sense that antibiotic-resistant pathogens are common in areas where antibiotic use is particularly high, such as hospitals and agriculture.

Problems in the treatment of infectious diseases

The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria threatens treatment options for many infectious diseases, according to researchers involved in the current study. The RKI also points out that infections with resistant pathogens are generally more difficult to treat and can follow a more complicated course.

“We are in the midst of a global antibiotic resistance crisis that threatens to devastate health systems around the world – the World Health Organization has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to health world, food security and development today," said the study's author. Professor Gabriel Waksman in a recent press release.

Although it is impossible to prevent the emergence of antibiotic resistance, understanding exactly how bacteria are able to exchange genes could open up approaches to combat the spread of antibiotic resistance genes.

Ongoing research is making a decisive contribution to this and is using cryo-electron microscopy to show exactly how antibiotic resistance spreads in bacterial populations. An extraordinarily large protein-protein interaction network plays an essential role here. (as)

Author and source information

Show now

This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Abhinav K. Vadakkepat, Adam Redzej, Natalya Lukoyanova, Clasien Oomen, Nathalie Braun, et al. : Cryo-EM structure of a type IV secretion system; in: Nature (published June 22, 2022), NatureUniversity College London: New hope to stop spread of antibiotic resistance (published June 23, 2022), UCL Robert Koch Institute: Basic knowledge of antimicrobial resistance (status: May 9, 2019), RKI

Important Note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.