New antimicrobial resistance (AMR) strategies

A common misconception about antibiotic resistance is that it is us humans that become resistant. This is not true - micro-organisms, such as bacteria, can become resistant to antibiotics.

The effects of antibiotic treatments are compounded by their effects on our normal microbiome as the microbiome normally protects us against harmful organisms. Thus ‘Incorrect and widespread use of antibiotics amplifies the spread of resistance by killing off non-resident cells, allowing resistant cells to dominate’. We have a Virtual Genetics Education Centre where we provide further information.

We know that bacteria can transfer genetic information via horizontal gene transfer. This mechanism is a major pathway whereby bacteria can acquire genes that produce antimicrobial resistance.

Mobile genetic elements, in bacteria, transfer antimicrobial drug resistance determinants from one bacterial strain to another; both within a species or between species. LeMID researchers are involved in studies on mobilisation of these elements in many species including Acinetobacter baumannii.

Zaaima Al-Jabri, a PhD student who graduated in summer 2018, was awarded by the Research Council of Oman, the National Research Award for the best published research led by a PhD in Health and Social Service Sector.

Mobilisation of drug resistant elements

Throughout their life cycle, bacteria come into contact with a plethora of toxic substances, be it bile in your gut, heavy metals in the environment, or dangerous effectors from competing strains and species. Diverse bacterial taxa have evolved efflux pumps – large membrane proteins which exclude toxic substrates – to deal with these environmental and within-host pressures.

A major problem is that efflux pumps are in many cases able to export a diverse range of antibiotic classes used in clinical practise. Mutations in efflux pump encoding or regulatory genes can lead to heightened activity/expression of these systems, rendering bacteria resistance to antibiotics in the clinic, providing a major problem for public health.

LeMID researchers are using cutting edge molecular genetic techniques to investigate the role of efflux systems in the evolution of pathogenic bacteria, and to elucidate their mechanisms of transcriptional regulation.

Small World Initiative show how others can get involved with the global antibiotic crisis.