Bacteria become resistant to antibiotics through the acquisition of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) which uses horizontal transfer to spread directly between cells. Novel ARGs are continuously mobilized from environmental and commensal bacteria and transferred into pathogens which makes them hard to treat. Characterization of the ARGs maintained by bacterial communities is vital for understanding this flow of resistance genes and how it can be countered.
In this project, we will perform the first large-scale characterization of novel resistance genes present in environmental and commensal bacteria. For this aim, we will develop new methodology for identification of novel ARGs in large volumes of genomic and metagenomic data. We will assess the mobility of the identified genes based on their DNA sequences, genomic contexts and phylogenetic structure. This will be used to identify which novel ARGs that has an especially high risk to be transferred into pathogens. Finally, we will pin-point environments where the transfer events of novel ARGs are most likely to occur. The vast diversity of ARGs present in bacterial communities constitute an essential, but almost completely unexplored, component of the evolutionary processes that shape antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
This project addresses fundamental questions within microbiology and the results have the potential to contribute significantly to the struggle against antibiotic resistance and, thus, human health worldwide.
Full Professor at Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics
Funding Chalmers participation during 2020–2023