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Plasmids Shown to Play Key Role in Spread of Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance represents a significant public health problem. A report from the O’Neill Commission predicts that antibiotic resistance will lead to 10 million deaths per year by 2050, surpassing cancer as a source of human mortality. According to Researchers at the University of Oxford, plasmids are one of the key culprits in spreading the major global health threat of antibiotic resistance.

Here are their findings:

  • Plasmids, which live inside bacteria and are known to be a vehicle for transferring antibiotic resistance genes, can accelerate the evolution of new forms of resistance, making them more important to the process than previously thought.
  • Resistance genes are commonly found on plasmids, which are small extrachromosomal elements commonly found in bacteria.
  • Some transposable elements, known as conjugative transposons, also carry resistance traits. Although unable to replicate autonomously, they can move from one bacterial cell to another by a plasmid‐like mechanism.
  • The findings reveal a new role for plasmids in antibiotic resistance and evolutionary innovation and highlight the threat posed by plasmids to public health.
  • Excessive use of antibiotics in the treatment of human infections has, contributed to the emergence and selection of resistant bacteria over time.

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