Scientists have proven that the killer gene has jumped from a harmless organism to an evil pathogen

−1 Each isolate is microphone tested in the presence of PAβN (black line). MIC, minimum inhibitory concentration; MER, meropenem; IMI, imipenem; Pan, phenylalanine, arginine beta-naphthylamide. Credit: DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000715″ width=”500″ height=”433″/>

The efflux pumps contribute to the high level of meropenem resistance but not imipenem resistance. Data represent the MIC of the control strain P. aeruginosa ATCC27853 (red dashed line) at MIC = 0.5 mg L.−1 The MIC of each isolate was tested in the presence of PAβN (black line). MIC, minimum inhibitory concentration; MER, meropenem; IMI, imipenem; Pan, phenylalanine, arginine beta-naphthylamide. Credit: DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000715

University of South Australia scientists have made a surprising discovery in the origins of an antibiotic resistance gene previously thought to be confined to Adelaide.

First discovered in Adelaide in 2006, the gene is carried by the nasty bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an organism responsible for thousands of deaths among immunocompromised, surgical and burn patients due to its resistance to antibiotics of last resort.

This gene makes infections resistant to the most powerful antibiotics used in medicine – imipenem and meropenem. The antibiotic-resistant P. aeruginosa is now listed by the World Health Organization as a “critical priority pathogen”, one of the 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.

Until now, the Adelaide Imipenemase (AIM-1) gene was only thought to be found in the capital of South Australia after it was detected in clinical samples and healthcare associated wastewater.

But a group of scientists led by UniSA Associate Professor of Microbiology Rietie Venter has shown evidence of this worldwide, identifying its source in a harmless ecological organism found in soil, groundwater, sewage and even in plants.

The results were published in the journal Microbial genomics.

The discovery suggests that at some point the gene moved from a harmless organism to a nasty pathogen.

“It is a very ubiquitous and resilient opportunistic pathogen,” says Professor Assoc Venter.

The team used innovative methods to track and characterize antimicrobial resistance, and detect it through wastewater analysis. Their research revealed that the AIM-1 gene was prevalent in many locations across Adelaide and South Australia, including every sample of sewage and river water, indicating the gene’s spread more widely than originally thought.

“We next investigated the possibility of global distribution of the AIM-1 gene. Through extensive searching of the nucleotides and proteins database, we discovered that the gene was also present in Asia, North America and Europe.”

However, AIM-1 was mostly found in harmless environmental organisms and only jumped to the pathogen P. aeruginosa in two other sites so far (Iran and Iraq).

‘Mobile genes’ are jumping all the time, but the scenario described in this study is very rare,” says Professor Assoc Venter.

“However, since microbes are a large and highly competitive source of antibiotics, it is very likely that many bacterial resistance genes evolve in unknown organisms before making their way to dangerous pathogens, especially P. aeruginosa, which shares a habitat with non-environmental organisms. Harmful. ”

Assistant Professor Venter says the AIM-1 gene requires careful monitoring.

“If we can better understand why genes are transferred from environmental factors to human pathogens, we may be able to prevent them from happening more often,” she says.


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more information:
Anteneh Amsalu et al, Global distribution and ecological origin of Adelaide imipenemase (AIM-1), a potent carbapenemase in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Microbial genomics (2021). DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000715

Offered by the University of South Australia

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