The scourge of antibiotic resistance: the important role of the environment.

Finley, R.L., Collignon, P., Larsson, D.G.J., McEwen, S.A., Li, X.-Z., Gaze, W.H., Reid-Smith, R., Timinouni, M., Topp, E., and Graham, D.W. (2013). "The scourge of antibiotic resistance: the important role of the environment.", Clinical Infectious Diseases, 57(5), pp. 704-710. doi : 10.1093/cid/cit355  Access to full text


Antibiotic resistance and associated genes are ubiquitous and ancient, with most genes that encode resistance in human pathogens having originated in bacteria from the natural environment (eg, β-lactamases and fluoroquinolones resistance genes, such as qnr). The rapid evolution and spread of “new” antibiotic resistance genes has been enhanced by modern human activity and its influence on the environmental resistome. This highlights the importance of including the role of the environmental vectors, such as bacterial genetic diversity within soil and water, in resistance risk management. We need to take more steps to decrease the spread of resistance genes in environmental bacteria into human pathogens, to decrease the spread of resistant bacteria to people and animals via foodstuffs, wastes and water, and to minimize the levels of antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria introduced into the environment. Reducing this risk must include improved management of waste containing antibiotic residues and antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.

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