Biodiversity Science ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (4): 481-487.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.07071

Special Issue: Microbes Diversity

• Orginal Article • Previous Article     Next Article

Antibiotic resistance genes in the environment

Jianqiang Su, Fuyi Huang, Yongguan Zhu*()   

  1. Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiamen, Fujian 361021
  • Received:2013-03-22 Accepted:2013-06-08 Online:2013-07-29
  • Zhu Yongguan

Antibiotic resistance and its spread in bacteria are topics of great importance in global research. In this paper, we review recent progress in understanding sources, dissemination, distribution and discovery of novel antibiotics resistance genes (ARGs) in the environment. Bacteria exhibiting intrinsic resistance and antibiotic resistant bacteria in feces from humans and animals are the major sources of ARGs occurring in the environment. A variety of novel ARGs have been discovered using functional metagenomics. Recently, the long-term overuse of antibotics in drug therapy and animal husbandry has led to an increase in diversity and abundance of ARGs, causing the environmental dissemination of ARGs in aquatic water, sewage treatment plants, rivers, sediment and soil. Future research should focus on dissemination mechanisms of ARGs, the discovery of novel ARGs and their resistant mechanisms, and the establishment of environmental risk assessment systems for ARGs.

Key words: antibiotics, antibiotics resistance genes, antibiotic resistome, high-throughput quantitative PCR

Fig. 1

Ancient vancomycin resistance genes. A & B, VanAA2 structure. C & D, Comparison of modern and ancient VanA monomer structures (D'Costa et al., 2011)."

Fig. 2

The antibiotic resistome comprises all of the antibiotic resistance genes including resistance elements found in both pathogenic bacteria and antibiotic-producing bacteria, and cryptic resistance genes (which are not necessarily expressed) that are present in bacterial chromosomes, and precursor genes that might evolve into effective resistance genes (adapted from Wright, 2007)."

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