Ancient natural history of antibiotic production and resistance revealed

A study from McMaster University has unearthed new details about the evolutionary history of both antibiotic production and resistance and dates their co-emergence as far back as 350 to 500 million years. The study is the first to put antibiotic biosynthesis and resistance into an evolutionary context. The findings will help to guide the future discovery of new antibiotics and antibiotic alternatives which are medicines that are vitally needed given the current global threat of antimicrobial resistance.

The study was published in Nature Microbiology.

"Our findings are of significant interest," said Gerry Wright, senior author and professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster. He is also director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research and the newly established David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery.

"Our study reveals several implications in how we could potentially manage antibiotic use and find new drugs for antimicrobial infections."

The team extracted this history by first identifying the genome sequences encoding all of the necessary genetic programs for the production of glycopeptide antibiotics within a group of bacteria called Actinobacteria. Glycopeptides include vancomycin and teicoplanin, essential medicines for treating bacterial infections.

Researchers then plotted the changes in these genetic programs over time, revealing that while the precursors for genes responsible for antibiotic production date back to over one billion years, resistance is contemporary with the production of the first ancestors of vancomycin-like drugs, dating back to 350 to 500 million years.

"The results we uncovered in this study offers a valuable lens through which to consider the current antibiotic crisis," said Nicholas Waglechner, first author and PhD candidate in the Gerry Wright lab. "These compounds have been useful to bacteria on the planet even before dinosaurs appeared, and resistance co-evolved with production as a means of self-protection for producing bacteria. The use of vancomycin in modern times in medicine and agriculture has resulted in the movement of resistance from these innocuous producers to disease-causing bacteria over a few short decades."

Nicholas Waglechner, Andrew G McArthur, Gerard D Wright.
Phylogenetic reconciliation reveals the natural history of glycopeptide antibiotic biosynthesis and resistance.
Nature Microbiology (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41564-019-0531-5.

Most Popular Now

Amgen and Allergan's MVASI™ (bevacizumab-awwb) and…

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Allergan plc (NYSE:AGN) announced that MVASI™ (bevacizumab-awwb), a biosimilar to Avastin® (bevacizumab), and KANJINTITM (trastuzumab-anns), a bio...

Compound found in red wine opens door for new trea…

Like to unwind with a glass of red wine after a stressful day? Don't give alcohol all the credit. New research has revealed that the plant compound resveratrol, which is ...

HIV vaccine nears clinical trial following new fin…

A promising vaccine that clears an HIV-like virus from monkeys is closer to human testing after a new, weakened version of the vaccine has been shown to provide similar p...

Mylan and Upjohn, a division of Pfizer, to combine…

HERTFORDSHIRE, England & PITTSBURGH & Mylan N.V. (Nasdaq: MYL) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) today announced a definitive agreement to combine Mylan with Upjohn, Pfizer's o...

Leading oncologists and nutritionists pinpoint are…

An international collaborative led by Ludwig Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK has identified key areas that are central to uncovering the complex relationship betwe...

Closing the door: breaking new ground related to a…

In order to sustain fast growth, cancer cells need to take up nutrients at a faster rate than healthy cells. The human glutamine transporter ASCT2 allows the amino acid g...

Roche and Spark Therapeutics, Inc. announce extens…

Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) and Spark Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ONCE) ("Spark") announced that Roche has extended the offering period of its previously announced...

FDA approves first generics of Lyrica

On July 19, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved multiple applications for first generics of Lyrica (pregabalin) for the management of neuropathic pain associat...

FDA approves first treatment for severe hypoglycem…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Baqsimi nasal powder, the first glucagon therapy approved for the emergency treatment of severe hypoglycemia that c...

Rye is healthy, thanks to an interplay of microbes

Eating rye comes with a variety of health benefits. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland now shows that both lactic acid bacteria and gut bacteria contribut...

GSK completes transaction with Pfizer to form new …

The Joint Venture brings together two highly complementary portfolios of trusted consumer health brands, including GSK's Sensodyne, Voltaren and Panadol and Pfizer's Advi...

Eating more plant-based foods may be linked to bet…

Eating mostly plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods may be linked to better heart health and a lower risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovas...