Antibiotics impact gut microbiome and antimicrobial resistance

Antibiotics are commonly used to treat infections and ensure the safety of surgical procedures. However, their overuse has led to the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria, resulting in an “arms race” whereby ever more potent drugs are becoming a necessity. As antimicrobial resistance represents an ever-growing healthcare challenge worldwide, researchers from the Systems Ecology research group at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and the Department of Life Sciences (DLSM) and from the Molecular Disease Mechanisms group at DLSM explored the impact of antibiotic treatment on the microbial community inhabiting the gut of mice. Their results, recently published in Nature Communications, highlight that some bacteria are more likely to acquire antimicrobial resistance genes than others. The researchers also describe the key mechanisms involved in the short-term evolution of antibiotic resistance within the gut microbiome.

Studying the gut resistome in a murine model

The use of antibiotics both in the treatment of human disease and in animal husbandry has fuelled the build-up of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) globally. Many bacteria have now developed resistance to several classes of antibiotics, preventing the comprehensive treatment of infections and resulting in a rapidly growing number of deaths worldwide. A recent publication in The Lancet shows that, in 2019, the global burden associated with drug-resistant infections was estimated at approximately 5 million deaths, of which AMR was the direct cause of around 1.3 million deaths. “The current trend is clearly not downwards, with COVID-19 further fuelling the issue of antimicrobial resistance, leaving us on the course of 10 million deaths per year by 2050,” details Prof. Paul Wilmes, head of the Systems Ecology group. “This is why AMR is currently referred to as the ‘silent pandemic’. However, there is still a lot to learn about its evolution, timescales and transmission.”

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