TARGeTED – Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance with Goal-orientated Thinking across the EPS (Engineering and Physical Sciences) Disciplines
TARGeTED community at the University of York is working to develop new interdisciplinary collaborations and innovative approaches to tackle the antimicrobial resistance (AMR). One of their recent studies has revealed that bacteria growing in communities of more than one species can develop traits such as antibiotic resistance. Biologists at York are thus a step closer to understanding the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, one of today’s global Grand Challenges.
Examining bacteria in soil sample has led the York researchers to find that genes for traits such as antibiotic resistance can be spread by particular types of molecule known as infectious plasmids. Bacteria growing in mixed ‘community’ of more than one species allowed the plasmids to exchange gene information across the bacterial population.
As Dr James Hall, who carried out the research with Professor Michael Brockhurst in the Department of Biology, explains: “In these conditions, some bacteria act as gene exchange ‘hubs’ which spread plasmids to neighbouring bacteria.
“It’s a bit like sharing posts on social media. Some people share lots, others only rarely and different people have different interests. This diversity means that overall we encounter a much broader range of ideas than we would if we were all the same.
“For bacteria, this means that in diverse communities they are probably exposed to more plasmids allowing more options for them to evolve in different ways. This could include bacteria developing resistance to antibiotic treatment.”
The researchers at York are working now to understand why some bacteria make better hubs than others and what consequences the spread of resistance genes can have.
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