Transfer of resistance to polymyxin antibiotics from the environment to humans

Resistance to the polymyxin group of antibiotics is increasing. Some of the determinants of this resistance are transmitted from environmental bacteria to human pathogens. We are investigating the nature, origin, and mode of transmission of the determinants of polymyxin resistance from environmental sources to pathogens.

  • ​Project description (ongoing research project)

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    Polymyxins are antibiotics of last resort in human medicine that are also frequently used in veterinary medicine. An increasing number of pathogens is becoming resistant to polymyxins, including many Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae isolates . We have identified such strains and are now investigating the mechanisms responsible for their resistance to polymyxins. The research takes into account resistance resulting from mutations in the bacteria’s chromosome as well as resistance arising from the exchange of genetic material with other bacteria. We study resistance mechanisms in bacterial isolates recovered from the environment, humans or animals. Comparing these samples yields information about which mechanisms are spreading and the way this actually happens.

  • Background

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    Resistance to polymyxins is being identified more frequently. This resistance arises both from chromosomal mutations and from the exchange of genetic material between bacteria. However, it is not yet known how these resistance mechanisms spread across the environmental, animal and human settings.

  • Aim

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    We aim to determine the nature of factors leading to selection and dissemination of polymyxin resistance in human and veterinary medicine and to identify possible environmental sources for their transmission to humans. We also aim to identify new mechanisms of resistance to this family of antibiotics.

  • Relevance

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    With its focus on sources and pathways by which polymyxin resistance spreads, the project findings form the basis for preventive measures.

  • Original title

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    Dynamics of transmission of polymyxin resistance genes in Enterobacteriaceae; from the environmental source to the patient