Activities with organisms modified with antibiotic resistance genes that jeopardise the treatment of infections, have to be carried out at a higher containment level. Activities with apathogenic micro-organisms that possess such antibiotic resistance genes by nature are not assigned to a higher containment level. COGEM was asked whether this needs to change.
To answer this question, COGEM commissioned a literature study on aspects that are important for the transmission of antibiotic resistance genes to other bacterial species. This literature study was carried out by Dr. L.S. van Overbeek (Wageningen University & Research) and focused on resistance genes against critically important antibiotics.
In the resulting report three key mechanisms (transformation, transduction and conjugation) for horizontal transfer of antibiotic resistance genes are described, and the role of mobile genetic elements in the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to other species of bacteria is explained.