Selection of tetracycline and ampicillin resistance genes during long-term soil-copper exposure

McCluskey, Seanin and Knapp, Charles W. (2017) Selection of tetracycline and ampicillin resistance genes during long-term soil-copper exposure. In: Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Natural Environments and Long-Term Effects. Nova Science Publishers, Inc., New York, pp. 199-216. ISBN 978-1-53611-818-6

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Abstract

Antibiotic resistance is an issue of paramount clinical concern. While the overuse of antibiotics is the much touted cause of the current resistance issue we face, the problem is in fact much more complex than that. The role of the environment and selection pressures present have been known to be contributing factors to the cycling and maintenance of antibiotic resistance genes for some time. The specific details of the link between the environment and clinical setting are still being elucidated and may prove to be vital in staving off the ever approaching post-antibiotic era we face. Metals in the environment, for example, could be a significant factor in the development of antibiotic resistance. Here, we assessed the contribution of elevated levels of copper on the selection of ampicillin and tetracycline resistance in soils. Tetracycline resistance genes, particularly those conferring resistance via efflux mechanisms, had higher relative abundances upon exposure to copper over time; whereas, ampicillin resistance genes showed marginal differences among treatments. Overall, the presence of copper into the environment does pose a risk with regards to the increase and maintenance of antibiotic resistance. The environment and metals present should be considered when devising policy to tackle the antibiotic resistance issue.