How germs transfer resistance to each other

Dead bacteria release DNA molecules that other bacteria can incorporate into their own genetic material. We are investigating the way in which, during this process, they pass on genetic information that leads to the development of antibiotic resistance.

  • Portrait / project description (ongoing research project)

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    Antibiotic resistance is spread not only by multiplying resistant bacteria, but also by bacteria exchanging genetic material between themselves. An important role in this process is played by the ability of bacteria to incorporate free DNA present in a medium in which they are immersed. We are investigating this mechanism in bacteria from the species Acinetobacter baumannii with the aim of finding out how the mechanism contributes to the development of resistance. Resistant strains of these bacteria are found repeatedly, particularly in hospitals. At this stage it is often no longer possible to treat them due to multi-resistance. In a second step we are analysing how the studied mechanism contributes to the spread of resistance when bacteria come into contact with antibiotics.

  • Background

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    Little is known about the relationship between horizontal gene transfer and the development of resistance in many germs encountered in hospitals. However, modern methods of gene analysis can be used to obtain new knowledge.

  • Aim

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    Our goal is to gain a better understanding of how resistance transfers from one bacterium to the next. This study will also show whether bacteria actively “acquire” resistance from other bacteria or whether the process is a passive one.

  • Relevance

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    In-depth knowledge of the mechanisms we are studying will help practitioners to use antibiotics in such a way that they take longer to spread resistance among bacteria.

  • Original title

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    Contribution of natural transformation to the transmission of antimicrobial resistance genes