The role of antibiotics in the environment for the emergence, selection and transfer of antibiotic resistance
The research will aid in scaling and directing countermeasures to where they are likely to have an impact, and thereby benefit public health in the long term.
Research project funded jointly by the Swedish Research Council VR (Medicine and Health) (0.7 MSEK/year) and the Swedish Research Council FORMAS (1 MSEK/year) for the period 2016-2018.
The project is coordinated by Joakim Larsson.
Harmless environmental bacteria serve as sources for antibiotic resistance genes and resistance plasmids that over time are recruited into human pathogens through horizontal gene transfer. There is a widespread concern that very low, environmental levels of antibiotic residues, derived from human usage, exert selection and increase the risks for such transfers events. In some contrast to this concern, we conclude that there is still very limited scientific evidence supporting this risk scenario. By defining concentrations that select for resistance and drive gene transfer in complex microbial communities, we will investigate if resistance promotion primarily, or even only, takes place at higher environmental antibiotic concentrations reached through other routes than via human excretions, such as pollutionfrom antibiotic manufacturing. We will also investigate if industrial pollution with antibiotics promotes the emergence of previously unknown resistance factors. We expect the results to significantly improve our scientific understanding of the role of antibiotics in the environment in the emergence, selection and transfer of antibiotic resistance. Importantly, the research will aid in scaling and directing countermeasures to where they are likely to have an impact, and thereby benefit public health in the long term.