New Discoveries About Antibiotic Resistance Genes Unveiled Through Advanced Large-Scale Computing

The rising threat of antibiotic resistance is becoming a serious concern for human health. One of the reasons behind this crisis is the way pathogens acquire antibiotic resistance genes through a process called horizontal gene transfer. A significant challenge in addressing this issue is that we often don't identify these new antibiotic resistance genes until they have already spread widely, making it very difficult to control their impact.

Big data bring new insights

However, a new study has taken advantage of cutting-edge computer analysis of bacterial genetic information to reveal previously unknown mobile antibiotic resistance genes within harmful microorganisms. The research delved into one million sets of genetic instructions, unveiling a prediction of genes responsible for 34000 unique aminoglycoside-modifying enzymes. These enzymes have been grouped into 7612 different families.  Only 88 of these groups were known before which underlines these ground-breaking findings.

- By rigorously screening large volumes of sequencing data we were

david lund
Photo: Chalmers university of technology

able to identify several potent aminoglycoside resistance genes that were previously undiscovered says David Lund, doctoral student and first author of the stduy. - These findings show the usefulness of computational methods for early detection of potentially dangerous new resistance genes. “


Of utmost importance are the approximately fifty brand new families of aminoglycoside-modifying enzymes that have links to mobile genetic structures and harmful hosts. Rigorous experiments followed, testing 28 of these, and remarkably, 24 of them were proven to provide resistance against a class of antibiotics called aminoglycosides in Escherichia coli bacteria. Even more surprisingly, 17 of these aminoglycoside-modifying enzymes surpassed the levels of resistance seen in clinical settings, raising concerns about the effectiveness of antibiotics.

erik kristiansson
Photo: chalmers

Proactive measures needed

This study represents a major leap forward in our understanding of the genetic reasons behind aminoglycoside antibiotic resistance, a type of resistance seen in several important antibiotics. Furthermore, it highlights the potential of using advanced computer methods to spot new antibiotic resistance genes at an early stage, providing us with a hopeful path for taking proactive measures against the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

- New resistance genes are constantly encountered in clinical settings where they can reduce the efficacy of antibiotic treatments. says Erik Kristiansson, professor at the Department of applied mathematics and statistict at the University of Gothenburg.  -This study shows that it is possible to identify new resistance genes before they spread widely between pathogens and threatens human health. The study, thus, emphasize the importance to also include new resistance genes in the surveillance and infection control of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.