Antibiotic Resistance Genes Traveling On The Wind

The air in Beijing carries the greatest diversity of antibiotic resistance genes, while San Francisco has the highest levels of airborne antibiotic resistance genes, say researchers.

AsianScientist (Aug. 10, 2018) – An international team of scientists has demonstrated that antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) can be spread through the air, with implications for the containment of drug-resistant microbes. Their findings are published in Environmental Science & Technology.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least two million people in the US become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year. Research has shown that ARGs can move from bacteria to bacteria, or even from bacteria to the environment.

For example, tetracycline resistance genes have been found near animal feed operations and β-lactam resistance genes have been found in urban parks in California. These studies indicated that airborne transmission could be a factor in the spread of ARGs. However, current air pollution investigations typically don’t take ARGs into account.

In the present study, researchers led by Professor Yao Maosheng at Peking University performed a survey of 30 ARGs across 19 cities around the world, including San Francisco, Beijing and Paris. The group studied ARGs that confer bacteria resistance to seven common classes of antibiotics: quinolones, β-lactams, macrolides, tetracyclines, sulfonamides, aminoglycosides and vancomycins.

They found that Beijing had the most diverse group of airborne ARGs, with 18 different subtypes detected, while San Francisco had the highest overall level of airborne ARGs. Resistance genes to β-lactams and quinolones were the two most abundant types of ARGs in all the cities studied. Low levels of ARGs coding for resistance to vancomycin—an antibiotic of last resort for MRSA treatment—were detected in the air of six cities.

The article can be found at: Li et al. (2018) Global Survey of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Air.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Shutterstock.
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