Biologists have discovered the dual origin of antibiotic-resistant superbugs

(ORDO NEWS) — Biologists have found that some of the superbugs that are immune to the action of cephalosporins and other antibiotics from the beta-lactam group originated in the natural ecosystems of Europe, while other microbes with similar properties appeared on farms in the United States.

“We have prepared and studied a record-breaking set of beta-lactam-resistant bacterial genomes. We have been able to show that all this diversity arose from the spread of a very limited set of genes and microbial lines.

Understanding the mechanisms of transmission of these DNA regions will help us create approaches that slow down the emergence and spread of superbugs,” said UEA professor Alison Mather, quoted by the press service of the university.

Professor Mather and his colleagues have been studying for many years how various strains of microbes that are resistant to the action of certain antibiotics evolve and spread.

In particular, this year they managed to link the emergence of salmonella, which is invulnerable to most drugs, with the simultaneous massive use of drugs and vaccines against salmonellosis in Brazil.

In their new work, British researchers and their colleagues from Canada and other European countries have uncovered the history of the spread of pathogenic forms of E. coli, pneumococcus and other variations of pathogenic microbes that can resist the action of cephalosporins and similar antibiotics from the beta-lactam group.

The history of the evolution of superbugs

According to the researchers, these bacteria began to actively spread across Europe and the New World in the late 1990s, when doctors began to widely use fourth-generation cephalosporins in medical practice.

Scientists have long been interested in how and where the genes that protect these bacteria from the action of beta-lactams arose, as well as how the process of their exchange between different microbes proceeded.

To obtain such information, Professor Mather and his colleagues have prepared an extensive collection of microbes with a similar ability, which includes more than two thousand strains of E. coli, Klebsiella, pneumococcus and other bacteria that are unusually well resistant to the action of beta-lactams.

Scientists analyzed and compared the structure of their genes associated with the neutralization of antibiotics, which helped them unravel the history of their appearance and distribution.

This analysis showed that the two most common families of these DNA regions arose not in one, but in two very distant geographical areas.

In particular, the first carriers of genes from the AmpC family were farm animals and people in contact with them, who lived in the United States at the end of the last century. In turn, the ESBL gene family originated in Europe and its first carriers were wild European animals.

In the following years and decades, carriers of these two gene families entered other continents, resulting in a sharp decline in the effectiveness of cephalosporins around the world.

Professor Mather and his colleagues hope that the data they have collected will help to study in detail the distribution of these genes across Europe and the United States and develop approaches that reduce the likelihood of transfer of these DNA sections between different species and strains of microbes.

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