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article imagePredicting antibiotic resistance through advanced genetics

By Tim Sandle     Dec 21, 2014 in Science
Tokyo - The challenge faced by scientists in developing a new generation of antibiotics to challenge the menace of antibiotic resistant superbugs is considerable. To help with this, researchers have pinpointed the how resistance develops.
The research has been carried out in Japan, at the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center (QBiC). This research group have been studying the bacterium Escherichia coli and they have identified a set of genetic features that account for how this common organism builds up and passes on its antibiotic resistance.
The finding is that resistance occurs through mutations, and these mutations converge on similar physical changes in the bacteria. This leads to the expression of a narrow number of genes. This information can help to predict how a certain bacterium will respond to a given antibiotic.
For the studies, researchers used 44 bacterial strains of Escherichia coli, each resistant to one of 11 different antibiotics. They next tested these strains against 25 antibiotics that the strains would never have accounted before. The tests showed that most strains had developed resistance to several of the 25. This happened even when these antibiotics worked differently from the one used to generate the resistance. This process is termed “cross-resistance.”
The scientists also found that with two classes of antibiotics, a phenomenon called “cross-susceptibility” occurred. With this, bacteria that become resistant to one type became more vulnerable to the other.
The scientists examined whether similar alterations in gene expression cause the effect of cross-resistance. By putting large amounts of information together they found that they could predict patterns of resistance based on information from a small number of genes. One area where this occurred was a function in the bacterial cell called the multidrug efflux pump. This is a mechanism that the cell uses to pump out unwanted molecules.
The new insight could help medical microbiologists to find new ways to prevent antibiotic resistance. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications. The paper is titled “Prediction of antibiotic resistance by gene expression profiles.”
More about Antibiotics, Antibiotic resistance, Genetics, riken
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