Special Perspectives

Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Natural Environments

Science  18 Jul 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5887, pp. 365-367
DOI: 10.1126/science.1159483

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Abstract

The large majority of antibiotics currently used for treating infections and the antibiotic resistance genes acquired by human pathogens each have an environmental origin. Recent work indicates that the function of these elements in their environmental reservoirs may be very distinct from the “weapon-shield” role they play in clinical settings. Changes in natural ecosystems, including the release of large amounts of antimicrobials, might alter the population dynamics of microorganisms, including selection of resistance, with consequences for human health that are difficult to predict.

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