Antibiotics are medications that fight infections caused by bacteria. Since their accidental discovery in the 1920s by Alexander Fleming, they have revolutionized the field of medicine. The first antibiotic, penicillin, was commercially manufactured and sold to be used primarily for treating soldiers who contracted infections on the battlefield of World War II.
With commercialization and increased use of antibiotics, the general health and quality of life improved significantly. However, it also led to a bigger issue; antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance became an issue soon after the use of penicillin increased.
Overuse of the medication is credited to be the reason behind this problem and now, it threatens the usefulness of all antibiotics.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to medicine. Resistance genes in the bacterial genome have resulted in a phenomenon where antibiotics are no longer able to kill or stop the growth of these bacteria.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest issues currently due to the fact that the resistance genes are mobile and are being passed from one bacterial species to another resulting in antibiotic resistance against almost all antibiotics.
The issue of antibiotic resistance was worsened by the fact that scientists do not understand where it originated from and are stumped on finding a way around it. However, researchers at the University of Gothenburg have solved the issue partly by identifying the origins of antibiotic resistance.
A University of Gothenburg Study
A recent study published in Nature Communications Biology Journal by Larson, Ebmeyer, and the team from the Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Gothenburg, Sweden was performed with the purpose of identifying the origins of resistance genes in the bacteria.
Knowing the origin is especially important as it helps scientists understand how these genes became mobile and the specific features of these bacteria. This information may help them overcome the issue that has been a roadblock for medicine and healthcare for a few decades now.
Methods of the Study
For the purpose of this study, the researchers searched the databases for available literature on the origins of mobile resistance genes. They found 3342 articles on the topic, out of which 43 matched the evaluation criteria and were used for further analysis.
Results of the Study
The researchers expected to find antibiotic-producing bacteria to be the main source, as it was believed to be the case. It was believed they had the mobile resistance genes in their genome as a self-defense mechanism. However, the results of the study were completely different.
Larson and his team found 37 groups of mobile antibiotic resistance genes that were originating, exclusively, from pathogenic non-producers, almost all of which had close contact with humans and animals. Almost all of these bacteria were found to belong to the gram-negative Proteobacteria species. Interestingly, more than one resistance gene was found to originate from one bacteria.
The researchers, however, claim that there is a bias towards proteobacteria species in the available databases and hope that as time passes and more genomes are studied and analyzed, non-infectious and non-proteobacterial origins for antibiotic resistance may be identified.