Biotech Updates

Scientists Identify Key Catalyst for Antibiotic Resistance

November 16, 2016

A new study conducted by an international team of scientists shows that plasmids accelerate the evolution of new forms of antibiotic resistance, making them more important to the process than previously thought.

The O'Neill Commission predicts that by 2050, antibiotic resistance will lead to 10 million deaths per year, surpassing cancer as a source of human mortality. Professor Craig MacLean, a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Oxford's Department of Zoology said that many of the most important resistance genes are found on plasmids as they are capable of moving between bacteria and are usually thought of as being important vehicles that transfer resistance genes between bacteria.

Professor MacLean adds, "The spread of resistance genes in bacterial populations is driven by simple, Darwinian selection: during antibiotic treatment, bacteria with resistance genes have a higher reproductive rate than sensitive bacteria, and, as a result, the use of antibiotics causes the spread of resistance genes."

For more details, read the news release at University of Oxford website.