“Jumping genes” that jump between species spread the resistance:
Biomedical engineers at Duke University believe they have discovered the physical mechanism that causes high doses of antibiotics to promote the spread of antibiotic resistance between bacteria.
The culprit, they say, is an overabundance of “jumping genes,” called transposons, that carry the genetic instructions for resistance from the cell’s source code to plasmids that shuttle between cells.
“There’s a lot of evidence that suggests human pathogens likely pick up antibiotic resistance from other species living in the natural environment,” said Lingchong You, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. “Intuitively, it makes sense that high levels of antibiotics in these environments are facilitating the jumping of resistance genes from chromosomes to plasmids so that they can spread, but the underlying mechanism never been directly tested. That’s where our work comes in.” …
“Yi’s experiments were designed to test this possible pathway that explains how different pathogens actually get resistance from environmental species,” You said. “And he demonstrated that not only is this possible, it’s also very likely.”
Transposons are tiny pieces of DNA that constantly jump around the inside of a cell. They can jump from place to place within a cell’s central genetic database, and they can jump from the database of the DNA to the larger plasmids capable of traveling between cells, or vice versa. This can lead to chromosomes or plasmids that contain many copies of the same genetic blueprints.Duke University, “Tiny jumping genes fingered as culprit in rise of antibiotic resistance” at ScienceDaily (April 5, 2022)
A bit like an arms race but with plasma?
The paper requires a fee or subscription.