Research ArticleANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE

Single-molecule sequencing to track plasmid diversity of hospital-associated carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae

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Science Translational Medicine  17 Sep 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 254, pp. 254ra126
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3009845

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How Antibiotic Resistance Spreads Among Bacteria

Antibiotic-resistant microbes are spreading at an alarming rate in health care facilities throughout the world. Conlan et al. use a new DNA sequencing method to take a close look at one way in which antibiotic resistance spreads. With single-molecule sequencing, the authors completely characterized individual plasmids, the circular bits of DNA that carry the genes for antibiotic resistance in bacteria. They focused on resistance to the carbapenems, a class of antibiotics that is often used for infections that do not respond to more conventional antimicrobial agents. By using this approach in their microbial surveillance program at the NIH Clinical Center, the authors found evidence that plasmids carrying carbapenemase genes moved from one microbial species to another within the hospital environment. They also used the technique to test hypotheses about patient-to-patient transmission and to characterize a previously undescribed carbapenemase-encoding plasmid carried by diverse bacterial species that could cause dangerous clinical infections.

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