The discovery of antibiotics heralded the start of a "Golden Age" in the history of medicine. Over the years, the use of antibiotics extended beyond medical practice into animal husbandry, aquaculture and agriculture. Now, however, we face the worldwide threat of diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria that are resistant to all existing major classes of antibiotic, reflecting the possibility of an end to the antibiotic era. The seriousness of the threat is underscored by the severely limited production of new classes of antibiotics. Evolution of bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics results from the inherent genetic capability that bacteria have to adapt rapidly to changing environmental conditions. Consequently, under antibiotic selection pressures, bacteria have acquired resistance to all classes of antibiotics, sometimes very shortly after their introduction. Arguably, the evolution and rapid dissemination of multiple drug resistant genes en-masse across microbial pathogens is one of the most serious threats to human health. In this context, effective surveillance strategies to track the development of resistance to multiple antibiotics are vital to managing global infection control. These surveillance strategies are necessary for not only human health but also for animal health, aquaculture and plant production. Shortfalls in the present surveillance strategies need to be identified. Raising awareness of the genetic events that promote co-selection of resistance to multiple antimicrobials is an important prerequisite to the design and implementation of molecular surveillance strategies. In this review we will discuss how lateral gene transfer (LGT), driven by the use of low-dose antibiotics in animal husbandry, has likely played a significant role in the evolution of multiple drug resistance (MDR) in Gram-negative bacteria and has complicated molecular surveillance strategies adopted for predicting imminent resistance threats.
- Antimicrobial growth promotion
- Bacterial genomes
- Complex resistance loci
- Lateral gene transfer
- Multi drug resistance