Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg have found several new genes that make bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics.
The genes were found by searching large volumes of bacterial DNA and are published in the scientific journal Microbiome. The researchers found 76 new types of resistance genes. Several of these genes can provide bacteria with the ability to degrade carbapenems, our most powerful class of antibiotics used to treat multi-resistant bacteria.
“Our study shows that there are lots of unknown resistance genes. Knowledge about these genes makes it possible to more effectively find and hopefully tackle new forms of multi-resistant bacteria”, says Erik Kristiansson, Professor in biostatistics at Chalmers University of Technology and principal investigator of the study.
The research group developed new computational methods to find patterns in DNA that are associated with antibiotic resistance. By testing the genes they identified in the laboratory, they could then prove that their predictions were correct.
“The novel genes we discovered are only the tip of the iceberg. There are still many unidentified antibiotic resistance genes that could become major global health problems in the future,” Kristiansson says.
Photo of Erik Kristiansson, Professor in biostatistics at Chalmers University of Technology and Joakim Larsson, Professor in environmental pharmacology and Director of the Centre for Antibiotic Resistance Research at the University of Gothenburg (photo: Johan Wingborg)